Cherry stumbles in Class A softball quarterfinals

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- Cherry's day Thursday didn't begin very well when the softball team's bus wouldn't start and coaches and players needed to improvise to reach Caswell Park for a Class A high school state tournament quarterfinal.

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Cherry's outfielder Makenzy Geordt shortly before diving over the mesh fencing catches a hit during the Class A state quarterfinal against New York Mills Thursday at Caswell Park. (Trevor Cokley / Forum News Service)

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. - Cherry’s day Thursday didn’t begin very well when the softball team’s bus wouldn’t start and coaches and players needed to improvise to reach Caswell Park for a Class A high school state tournament quarterfinal.
The Tigers’ game against New York Mills didn’t start well, either, as the Eagles scored three unearned runs in the top of the first inning thanks to two Cherry errors and two passed balls.
Though Cherry tied the score in the bottom of the first, the comeback didn’t last as New York Mills scored seven runs in the fifth inning en route to a 14-7 victory.
Cherry (21-5) concluded play Thursday with a 2-0 victory over Rush City in a consolation semifinal and returns to the field at 9 a.m. today to play Edgerton Southwest Christian for fifth place.
When the Tigers’ bus failed to start, all the equipment needed to be unloaded and players and coaches needed to use the nearby Best Western’s shuttle to reach the ballpark. Coaches’ wives helped out with the transport of the equipment.
“That disrupted us a little this morning, too,” Cherry coach Darrell Bjerklie said.
Whether that was a reason for Cherry’s nervous start or whether it was typical state tournament jitters, the Tigers didn’t play like the six-time defending Section 7A champions. They played more like the team that lost 23-22 to Greenway in the section playoffs.
“It was similar to what we saw in our section semis,” Bjerklie said. “If you play with poor pitching and poor defense, then that’s the results you will get. They need to be ready to play from the start. They know how and they have from the past, but I guess they came in a little tight and never did loosen up.”
New York Mills left the bases loaded in its three-run first inning, which seemed troublesome after Cherry evened the score in the bottom of the inning thanks to RBI singles by Rayanna Peterson and Abby Mayry.
“We’ve been always been able to respond with the bats,” Bjerklie said. “We’re good on the offensive side, but we can’t always score seven, eight, nine runs a game because that puts a lot of pressure on your offense.
“I thought when we tied it, we would loosen up and play our game. But they never really did, and that’s too bad.”
The Eagles scored a single run in the fourth and then broke the game open with seven runs on five hits in the fifth. Kenna Salo opened the inning with a walk and scored and then doubled in two runs later in the stanza.
“Our focus all season was hit line drives and put the ball in play on the ground and force (the defense to) make plays,” Eagles coach Bryan Dunrud said. “I felt we were hitting the ball solid at times.”
New York Mills totaled 14 hits and scored 10 runs off starting pitcher Joely Roberts. Salo was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, Madison Kane drove in three runs on a double, and Lydia Irons and Rhiana Roberts each scored three runs.
Rhiana Roberts allowed 12 hits but had good location on her pitches, Dunrud said.
For Cherry, Mikala Kowarsch was 3-for-4 and scored two runs; Peterson had two hits, two runs and two RBIs; Joely Roberts was 2-for-4 and scored twice; and Kiara Carl had a two-run single during Cherry’s four-run fifth that momentarily kept the Tigers in the game.
New York Mills responded with another run in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Joely Roberts responded with a two-hit, 12-strikeout performance in the evening session. She walked three.
Cherry totaled only three hits off Chesney Grant but squeaked out runs in the third and fourth innings.
Courtesy runner Olivia Baasi came home on Makenzy Geordt’s for the first run and Abby Mayry took advantage of a walk to lead off the fourth to score on a throwing error.

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