NORTH MANKATO – It didn’t seem to matter who was up for the New Ulm Eagles in both games of the Class AA State Softball Tournament on Thursday.
The Eagles were bound and determined to get on base and move up any way possible, and they did just that.
New Ulm pounded Maple River 12-0 in five innings in the first game, then kept the hot hitting up in the second game as the Eagles defeated Rockford 10-4. That means New Ulm (22-3) will play for the state championship at 2 p.m. today against Kasson-Mantorville.
In the first game against Maple River, New Ulm avenged an early-season loss to the Section 2AA champions by hitting the ball hard and swiping bases whenever possible. It also helped that pitcher Sydney Schuck was equally impressive in the pitcher’s circle.
Schuck went all five innings and struck out four, allowing just one hit (she also allowed one hit in the second game) in the process. She was aided by five runs in the top of the first, way more run support than she needed.
“It makes it easy, but I still know that I have them backing me up, it’s not like it’s anything different, it’s just something that’s in the back of my mind,” Schuck said.?
Brittany Hoffmann and Sarah Nelsen both hit a home run and Hoffmann finished the game by going 3-for-4 with four RBI. Schuck had two hits and four RBI to help her cause. Katie Forst and Nelsen also had two hits each for New Ulm.
“It’s really fun to come out strong, especially when some of the girls have the nerves and have never been here before,” Hoffmann said. “It’s really nice to 10-run them right away.”
“I had a fun day at the plate,” said Schuck, who drew a couple of walks against Rockford and scored two runs in the second game.
New Ulm seemed to have no problem with Maple River lefty Makayla Rahn. She took the loss, giving up 12 runs – 11 of them earned – on 14 hits. She struck out seven and walked two.
New Ulm has faced Rahn before and it showed.
“We’ve seen her before, we play them every year in regular season, so we knew what she had and we knew what to expect,” Hoffmann said.
After going up 5-0 in the first, Hoffmann added to the lead with a solo home run. Forst and Nelsen added RBI singles in the third to push it to 8-0.
New Ulm scored four more runs in the fourth, with Hoffmann adding her fourth RBI of the game with a double and Schuck driving in two more runs.
The bats didn’t slow down at all in the second game and neither did Schuck. She earned her second win of the day as she held Rockford hitless until the fifth inning.
Schuck pitched five innings, allowed one hit and one run. She struck out five.
“She threw well, she was great at the plate,” New Ulm coach Kristi Andersen Loose said.?”Our defense wasn’t fantastic today, we weren’t flawless or perfect, but when you have the offensive power, you get to kind of lay back a little bit.”
New Ulm scored two runs in the bottom of the first, one in the second and five in the third.
Ellie Schneider was 3-for-4 with two runs score in the second game. Hoffmann was 2-for-4 with three runs and two RBI and Kali Denn and Nelsen also had two RBI each.
“It’s really a great accomplishment just to make it here, you know your teammates have your back and if you strikeout, popout, the team’s right there for you,” Denn said.
Today the Eagles get another chance to bring home the championship hardware. They meet the KoMets, a 6-1 winner over Hermantown in the other semifinal game.
“We haven’t talked about a state championship at all until we got to the state tournament,” Andersen Loose said. “Just getting through our section is a feat in itself. Now that we’re here, our first focus was on Maple River. We haven’t talked about a state championship yet, we’re just taking it one game and one day at a time.”