Hermantown strikes out at state
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- The most recent time Hermantown faced Minnesota's all-time high school softball strikeout queen, the Hawks outlasted Virginia's Lindsey Predovich to earn one of its 20 state tournament berths.
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. - The most recent time Hermantown faced Minnesota’s all-time high school softball strikeout queen, the Hawks outlasted Virginia’s Lindsey Predovich to earn one of its 20 state tournament berths.
A repeat was not in the offing Friday.
Kasson-Mantorville senior pitcher Maddie Damon, who surpassed Predovich’s 11-year-old record during the Section 1 playoffs, whiffed 11 Hermantown players as the KoMets upended the Hawks 4-1 to win the Class AA quarterfinal at Caswell Park.
Damon allowed only three hits and walked none versus Hermantown and then hit a grand slam to lead the top-ranked KoMets (26-0) to a 10-0, five-inning victory over Hawley in the semifinal round. Her 11 strikeouts in that win gave her 1,249 for her career - far ahead of the 1,178 Predovich accrued.
“Maddie was on her game,” KoMets coach Jeff Fague said. “I’ve been the most fortunate man in Minnesota to sit on a bucket to watch (her career). Maddie’s turned it up again this year. She’s a perfectionist. She had a goal set this season to have 300 strikeouts - she’s never had 300 strikeouts before - and she did against Hermantown.”
Kasson-Mantorville, seeking its first championship, will play LeSueur-Henderson at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Hermantown (19-7) was knocked out of the consolation round later in the day by Staples-Motley, 3-2.
Kasson-Mantorville, which defeated Hermantown 6-1 in last year’s semifinals, scored two runs in each of the second and third innings to take a 4-0 lead. Kaylea Schorr and Cori Kennedy each had two of the KoMets’ eight hits off Kylie Hoff.
Hermantown’s only run came in the fourth when Macy Francisco reached on an infield error, advanced to third on another error and scored on a wild pitch.
“They did all the things they needed to do be successful,” Hawks coach Tom Bang said of the KoMets. “You’d just as soon not have to play from behind, but I’m proud of the way our kids competed. That game could have slipped away from them badly and they stuck with it. They made defensive plays, our bats got better as the game went on and we had our chance to score some runs.”
Francisco, one of only two seniors, said Damon was tough to hit but that her team didn’t quit.
“She’s a very skilled athlete, but I’m proud of how we did,” the second baseman said. “I think we played our hearts out and gave them a good shot compared to what every other team has done.”
Damon says her team was motivated by last year’s title-game loss to New Ulm.
“It hurt us so bad last year; we were really hungry for it and wanted it so bad this year,” she said.
KoMets coach Jeff Fague was more emphatic about how his team sought to finish atop the ladder.
“Last year when we started the season, we had the ‘State Participant’ banner up. I said, ‘That’s just ugly, you don’t want a participant banner,’ ” Fague said. “Then we took second place. We played a great game against New Ulm and lost by one. We put on that red ribbon (as runner-up) and I said, ‘There’s a reason that the first-place ribbon is royal blue (Kasson-Mantorville’s school colors).’ So that’s what we’ve had in our heads all year.”
STAPLES-MOTLEY 3, HERMANTOWN 2
Megan Vetsch threw an unconventional two-hitter, striking out only one, but still sending the Hawks home on the first day of the tournament for the first time since the consolation round was instituted in the 1980s.
“We may never have lost two and B-B-Q - that’s the saying,” Bang said.
Allison Samberg had both Hawks hits, one in a two-run fifth inning that closed the 3-0 deficit to one run. One run came home on an error and the other on Kailey Mihalik’s groundout. Yet the Hawks were unable to connect when needed.
“We played good defense in the course of the tournament, but on the offensive side - whether it was our hitting or their pitching - we simply couldn’t square the ball up, especially with runners in scoring position,” Bang said. “We had the right players up a number of times, but didn’t get a key base hit.”