Photo by SportsEngine
We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.
Seven-zero. St. Agnes players left the field on April 17 with those numbers in their heads after a shutout loss to Skyline Conference defending champion Maranatha Christian Academy.
Seven-zero. The number of wins and losses for St. Agnes since that humbling defeat. The Aggies have a chance to make it 8-0 on Wednesday and hand the Mustangs their first conference defeat in two years.
But it won't be easy. While St. Agnes (9-1, 6-1) has outscored opponents 88-16 during the seven-game win streak, Maranatha pitcher Ashley Yost isn't likely to let the Aggies run to a large lead.
Yost tossed a four-hitter, striking out nine, in the April 17 matchup at Maranatha (4-1, 4-0). No. 9 hitter Kyllie Weingart and two hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases, and No. 4 hitter Rebecca Schauer went 2-for-3 with a run batted.
Those players as well as Grace Kealy, Sophia Alm and Elisa Meissner have the Mustangs looking like contenders in Class 2A, Section 5. Maranatha lost 6-5 to perennial power Maple Lake in the section semifinals last spring.
Freshman pitcher Angela Proper (5-1, 2.39 ERA, 68 strikeouts), and a lineup full of lively bats have St. Agnes pushing Maranatha at the top of the conference standings. Annika Odenbrett had 11 hits in her first 20 at-bats; Angel Fish went 7-for-14 with eight RBIs; Gianna Schmidt went 10-for-22 with a triple and six RBIs; and Monica LeVesseur had five base hits and drew 10 walks.
Northfield enters the week looking for a pick-me-up.
Last week ended in disappointment for the Raiders (6-3, 4-3), who lost 1-0 in 10 innings to Rochester Central and waisted a phenomenal performance by pitcher Courtney Graff, who struck out 13 and surrendered just one hit while throwing 169 pitches.
Graff also had three of the Raiders' five hits and stole two bases. She did, however, walk eight batters.
That rebound performance won't come easy, however. Northfield plays Class 3A state title contender Winona on Thursday and follows that with a game Friday against New Prague (5-1, 3-0), a rising contender in Class 3A, Section 2.
New Prague, under first-year head coach Melissa Digatono, is showing the expected signs of growth by a young team. Junior first baseman-pitcher Jordyn Marsh, who went 8-8 with a 4.28 ERA and batted .403 with 23 RBIs as a sophomore, is the team's leader. Freshman catcher/third baseman Norah Blaschko and seniors Ava Rud and Maddy Tupy spark the Trojans' offense.
Northfield, meanwhile, remains a contender in what looks like a wide-open Class 4A, Section 1. Senior Rylee Blandin, who struck out 22 batters in a section playoff game last spring, gives the Raiders a strong 1-2 punch from the pitcher's circle. Senior Lucy Menssen (.593, 10 RBIs) and junior catcher Leah Enedy (.320, seven RBIs) along with Graff (.333, two home runs, 10 RBIs) give the offense some spark.
Farmington eliminated Northfield from the playoffs last spring. This year, the Raiders will contend with Farmington, Lakeville North and Lakeville South in the Section 1 playoffs.
This is not what many had in mind for Lakeville North and Lakeville South at the start of the season. The intra-city rivals were expected to be strong contenders for the Class 4A, Section 1 championship and add to the lineup of powerful teams in the South Suburban Conference.
But both teams have struggled at the start. Lakeville North (4-4-1, 4-4-1) had to fight for an 8-7 victory over Burnsville on Saturday to end a three-game losing streak. Lakeville South (2-7, 2-6) lost both ends of a doubleheader to Farmington to fall further down the conference standings.
Still, hope remains for both teams in the Class 4A, Section 1 race, and this week's matchup might give the winner a brighter outlook as the short spring season makes it way down the homestretch.
Junior pitcher Nora Brandt and seniors Kaylee Collins, Jordyn Vang and Ari Loesch give the Panthers reasons to be optimistic as the weather begins to warm. Juniors Kylie Hochsprung and Hannah Weckman add some punch to the lineup.
At Lakeville South, which took home the section trophy and played in the Class 4A state tournament last spring, the predictions for success begin with sophomore pitcher Madeline Nutter (1-5, 3.21 ERA, 57 strikeouts). The Cougars' offense hasn't yet found its rhythm. Junior Kaylee Haferman (.444, three RBIs) and freshman catcher Trinity Jensen (.296, one home run, four RBIs) spark the offense.
Maple Lake has a chance to avenge last spring's Class 2A state tournament semifinal loss to Proctor this week. But while many of the key players in that state tournament game return in a Proctor uniform, the team the Irish puts on the field on Saturday is much different.
Maple Lake has been a Class 2A power for much of the past decade and have dominated Section 5, winning five of the last seven championships. But 2022 Miss Softball finalists Taylor Hess and Bryn Elsenpeter. And, for that matter, so is longtime coach Tim Knutson.
The biggest struggle without those key personalties has nevertheless been the weather. Maple Lake enters the week at just 2-1. Junior shortstop Kelsi Jude, a first-team All-Central Minnesota Conference player last spring, leads the Irish. Sophomore Nora Haney-Goelz and senior Audrey Beffel were second-team all-conference players a year ago.
Maddy Walsh returns for Proctor (5-1) and is playing up to expectations. She started the season 3-0 on the mound with 25 strikeouts in 15 innings, while collecting seven hits in her first 10 at-bats with two home runs and six RBIs. Brooklynne Patterson, Anika Burke and Sophie Parendo give her plenty of support within the lineup.
Rosemount vs. Mankato West, noon, Saturday, May 6. Rosemount, a popular favorite in Class 4A, is playing like a champion. The Irish (10-0, 9-0) have outscored opponents 127-18. Mankato West (7-1, 6-1) is one of the top Class 3A contenders.
Forest Lake vs. Stillwater, 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 5. These teams were scoreless through six innings on April 14 before Stillwater scored four in the top of the seventh and held on for a 4-3 victory. In a super-competitive Suburban East Conference race, this should be another entertaining matchup. The Ponies enter the week unbeaten at 8-0 overall and in the conference.
The MN Softball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.