Silver Bay hopes to take next step
Last year's Minnesota Class A high school softball championship game had everything a fan could want: a close game that had three lead changes and went to extra innings, an amazing 29 hits, including a state-record-tying five by one player, and c...
Last year's Minnesota Class A high school softball championship game had everything a fan could want: a close game that had three lead changes and went to extra innings, an amazing 29 hits, including a state-record-tying five by one player, and close plays at home plate that could have decided the outcome.
The only thing the game didn't have, from Silver Bay's perspective, was a victory.
Springfield beat Silver Bay 7-6 in nine innings to win its first state title and deny the Mariners their inaugural championship.
One year later, the Mariners are back with title aspirations in mind.
"That's what we're all hoping," senior pitcher-shortstop Libby Guzzo said. "Nobody wants to come home without that state championship trophy."
Silver Bay (23-4) faces Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (21-3) in a Class A quarterfinal at 1 p.m. today at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minn. The winner advances to play either New Life Academy or East Grand Forks Sacred Heart in a 7 p.m. semifinal. The championship game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.
That's the game the Mariners hope to be playing in again. This time it wouldn't be a surprise. Silver Bay is ranked sixth in the state, losing only to two Class AAA teams, Class AA state tournament entrant Esko and Cherry, a loss the Mariners avenged twice to win Section 7.
Last season's experience left the players wanting more, coach Mike Guzzo says.
"We did some damage last year and know we can compete with the other teams," he said. "The kids have their sights set high."
Sophomore Sam Downey leads the Mariners with a .463 batting average and two home runs. Freshman shortstop Kirstin Sandstrom (.440) drove in a team-high 33 runs.
The Mariners batted .355 as a team, but were shut out in each of their four losses. Hitting reached a low when Cherry pitcher Karissa Etter dominated Silver Bay 3-0 in the section playoffs. Two extra batting practices -- the same night after beating Nashwauk-Keewatin to advance into the title round -- paid off.
"We started hitting better [after the loss to Cherry]," Downey said. "We need to hit well at state to win."
Pitching hasn't been much of a concern. Downey (11-4, 1.63 ERA) and Libby Guzzo (11-0, 1.15) give the Mariners an edge over teams that must throw the same pitcher three times in two days.
"That's one of our strengths," Mike Guzzo said. "For a Class A program to have two girls that caliber is pretty good. We feel good about both of them. We'll use them both -- which way we're going to throw them, I don't know yet."
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep softball for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at email@example.com