State Class A softball: First state tourney deals two losses to OsakisThe Silverstreaks fell to Hawley and eventual champion New Life Academy
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
It wasn’t the way things ended in a 7-6, 10-inning loss to Hawley that had head coach John Stigman and almost all of his players wiping tears from their eyes at the state softball tournament last Thursday.
Osakis came together as a team and accomplished everything it set out to accomplish this season. That’s what made the suddenness of two losses in Mankato so tough for a group that knows it played its final game together.
“We lose three great seniors,” Stigman said of Mercedes Klimek, Kiera Zimmel and Brianne Giesler. “They’re great kids. They’ve put in a lot of time and effort and are very dedicated. For these girls, I think the thing that is going to be hard is just losing everybody. Losing this group because they were just a fantastic group.”
It looked like Osakis would have one more game together after a couple innings against Hawley. The Silverstreaks led 6-0 after two innings behind three RBIs from Sabrina Zimmel. Klimek and Dani Chisholm added run-scoring hits, while Tonya Hetland hit her first of two doubles for the sixth run of the game.
Osakis was firing on all cylinders before the Nuggets started to chip away through the middle innings. Hawley scored twice in the third and sandwiched single runs around a two-run fifth to tie the game in the sixth.
Veronica Neumann capped off a four-hit day by connecting for the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th. Hawley loaded the bases with a walk and two misplayed bunts that allowed runners to reach with nobody out. Neumann took advantage by hitting a sharp groundball through a drawn-in infield to send her team to the consolation championship on Friday.
“It’s hard to lose a heartbreaker,” Stigman said. “But it was an exciting ballgame and that’s how your games should be.”
Hawley’s Jessy Noreen gave her team a chance after getting hit hard in the first two innings. The junior settled down after those six early runs and held Osakis scoreless over the final eight innings. The Silverstreaks had some chances, collecting 13 hits, but Noreen was able to get out of some jams by striking out nine.
She was the second of two all-state pitchers that Osakis faced on the day. Rebekah Schmidt led three-time defending state champion New Life Academy into the tournament and was dominant in the early going of a 13-0 win over the Silverstreaks.
Schmidt struck out the first eight batters she faced before Alex Anderson broke up the no-hitter with a single. Osakis hit a few balls hard in the later innings but had just one more hit from S. Zimmel to show for it. Schmidt finished the day with 11 strikeouts.
“Honestly, I didn’t think she threw hard,” Klimek said. “I mean, she did, but it wasn’t as hard as we’ve been hitting off the machine. What caught us off guard is she threw a rise and a curve ball, obviously pitches that we don’t see. That’s what was hard.”
The Eagles gave her plenty of run support off the back of two big innings. They scored five in the third with the help of an inside the park grand slam. Lauren Anders came up in a 3-0 game and sent a fly ball down the right field line. Janna Juntunen made a diving attempt but the ball got past her as all four runners came across.
“I don’t really think we came out tight or anything,” Stigman said after game one. “Actually, the plays that kind of determined the game were ones where we were just trying to make plays. The girl that got the inside the park home run, Janna came up and she tried to make a catch. She was almost there.”
Stigman was happy with his team’s aggressiveness, even if it cost them in the field a few times. Osakis committed eight errors in the two games. Of the 20 runs allowed, only eight were earned.
“Those were plays that happened,” Stigman said. “You practice for them and when you get into a game, you hope it just kind of clicks and you know what to do. We just didn’t make the right decisions. That being said, we tried to make plays, and we just didn’t make them.”
It did not diminish the experience for a team that was taking in everything for the first time.
“It’s very special,” Klimek said. “Just the experience is great in itself. Knowing that we were the first team from our school to ever make it here is just great.”
That’s what Stigman hopes every player on the team takes from this season. It’s a group that rewrote the record books at Osakis with 23 wins, a fourth straight Prairie Conference title and a Section 6A trophy.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Stigman said. “This was their goal at the start of the year. It’s not very often that you go down a sheet of goals that a group of girls puts together and you accomplish every single one of them. I’m just happy for them. They went through that whole sheet and accomplished everything. For them, the experience of being here is something they’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget.”
OSAKIS 330 000 000 0 – 6 13 4
HAWLEY 002 121 000 1 – 7 15 4
OSAKIS PITCHING – Sabrina Zimmel – L, 9+IP, 15H, 7R, 4ER, 3BB, 3SO
OSAKIS HITTING – Brianne Giesler – 3-5, 2 runs; Dani Chisholm – 1-5, 2 runs, RBI, SB; S. Zimmel – 3-5, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Klimek – 1-5, 2B, RBI; Tonya Hetland – 2-4, 2 2B, RBI; Kiera Zimmel – 1-5; Janna Juntunen – 1-4, BB; Alex Anderson – 1-5
NLA 205 06 – 13 11 1
OSAKIS 000 00 – 0 2 4
OSAKIS PITCHING – S. Zimmel – 5IP, 11H, 13R, 4ER, 4BB, 0SO
OSAKIS HITTING – S. Zimmel – 1-2; Anderson – 1-1