NORTH MANKATO – Pitcher Ashton Hoeppner was in control the entire game against Totino-Grace, giving up just one hit and striking out 13 in a 5-0 victory Thursday that sends Winona to the Class 3A championship game for the second consecutive year.
As runners-up in the Northwest Suburban Conference, Totino-Grace had seen good pitching before, but Hoeppner was sharp and shut the Eagles down.
“We couldn’t hit her rise ball and she was throwing first-pitch strikes,” Totino-Grace coach Mike Sullwold said. “When she got up in the count, she made the pitch she wanted. She’s one of the better pitchers we’ve seen all year.”
Totino-Grace (22-3) stayed close for the game’s first four innings behind pitcher Erin Poepping, but Winona put the game out of reach with a four-run fifth inning as Poepping, who pitched a complete game in a 6-5 victory over Big Lake in the quarterfinals, wore down.
“They got the hit we couldn’t get,” Poepping said. “[Hoeppner] was in control and we couldn’t figure it out.”
Hermantown 6, Mankato West 5: Suffice it to say, Mankato West has seen all it cares to see of Hermantown’s Jordyn Thomas. The senior first baseman hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to erase a Mankato West lead, then doubled and scored the game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning as the Hawks upended the defending champion Scarlets. Thomas was 3-for-4 with four RBI.
It was the second one-run victory of the day for Hermantown (21-4). The Hawks advanced to the semifinals by holding off Mendota Heights-based Visitation 7-6 in the quarterfinals.
Hannah Rode his two home runs and Briggs Carlson pitched a complete-game, allowing eight hits, for the 2016 champion Scarlets. Waconia had its 12-game winning streak broken.
The Hawks struggled to solve Visitation pitcher Emilie Gitter early but finally broke through in the fifth, cutting a 2-0 deficit to 2-1. The trickle became a gusher in the sixth, when Hermantown tacked on six runs on seven hits to take a 7-1 lead. Visitation rallied in the top of the 7th, getting four runs, but could not get the equalizer.
Ashton Hoeppner scattered four hits and Rhiannon Reinardy went 3-for-3 and scored three runs as the Winhawks coasted past the Prowlers.
Ella Eibensteiner’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning broke a 4-4 tie and lifted the Eagles into the semifinals.