Grace Gilmore doubled in the first game. Gilmore went 5-for-10 with two doubles and a home run and pitched 10-plus innings in the two games. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Centennial teammates greet Hailey Thom (with helmet) after her fourth-inning home run tied the game 4-4 and sparked the Cougars to a 15-7 victory over Champlin Park and the Class 4A Section 5 championship. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
When Centennial pitcher Grace Gilmore stumbled in the first game of Thursday's Class 4A, Section 5 championship doubleheader, teammate Alyssa Montero was there to pick her up.
No matter what happened on Champlin Park High School's softball field Thursday, either the Rebels or Centennial would leave with their school's first state tournament berth secured.
Host Champlin Park was the sentimental favorite, the No. 4 seed in the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament which had made it to the section final with three consecutive victories, including an 8-2 win over top-seeded Centennial on Tuesday.
In the end, Centennial (21-4) had just too much firepower, clubbing five home runs in two games and winning 9-5 and 15-7 over Champlin Park (14-10) to claim the section championship and the school's first state tournament berth.
Alyssa Montero hit two home runs, setting the school's single-season home run record with eight, and earned the victory in relief of Grace Gilmore as the Cougars won the first game 9-5 to set up a deciding Game 2 in the double-elimination tournament.
Gilmore returned the favor in the second game, coming on in relief of Montero early in the second inning, striking out eight batters and hitting her first home run of the year as Centennial won 15-7 to wrap up the section championship.
Hailey Thom homered and doubled in both games for Centennial.
Holly Blaska, who entered Thursday's games with seven hits in nine at-bats and three home runs in Champlin Park's three previous section playoff games, wasn't given a chance to do much damage in the final section games. Centennial pitchers walked her seven consecutive times before allowing her to swing the bat late in the second game. She doubled and scored in the sixth inning. Blaska scored three runs in the second game and one in the first.
Holly Blaska, middle, celebrated a sixth-inning run. She doubled after being walked seven consecutive times during the two games and scored on another double by Abby Gilk. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine