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Prep softball: Duluth East stays alive in tourney

Even though Central High School has been in mothballs for a couple of years, Saturday's Section 7AAA softball matchup between Duluth rivals East and Denfeld had a distinct Trojans feel to it.

Duluth East softball
Duluth East softball players (from left) Becca Zwak, Vanessa Kohl and Marjaana Dailey celebrate after defeating Duluth Denfeld 3-1 in the Section 7AAA softball tournament at Wheeler Field in Duluth on Saturday. East won two of three games to stay alive in the tournament. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Even though Central High School has been in mothballs for a couple of years, Saturday's Section 7AAA softball matchup between Duluth rivals East and Denfeld had a distinct Trojans feel to it.

Three former Central starters -- Sarah Hendrickson, Melissa Jarvi and Mikayla Haynes -- all play for Denfeld; East coach Nat Brown used to coach the Trojans; and even the Greyhounds' new uniforms resemble Central's red and white colors.

And now, after Saturday's daylong tournament at Wheeler Field, Denfeld -- like Central's athletic programs -- is no longer playing. East, however, survived to advance to Wednesday's final four.

The Greyhounds (9-8) contributed to the second-seeded Hunters' demise with a 3-1 victory in the opening game of the double-elimination tournament, before losing 5-0 to Anoka. A 6-4 win over St. Francis kept the Greyhounds alive. Denfeld (16-3) followed up with a 2-1 loss to Chisago Lakes Area at Wade Field and was bounced from the eight-team field.

Junior Vanessa Kohl tossed a five-hitter and struck out six against Denfeld, while junior batterymate Marjaana Dailey popped a two-run home run over the left-field fence in the first inning to provide all the scoring the Greyhounds needed.

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"The key was getting off to a good start," Brown said. "We came into the game believing that we could and would win, but it does help to get off to a start like that because it reaffirms what you were telling them."

Dailey said Hendrickson's offering was right where she was hoping it would be.

"That was right in my zone, out and up," she said. "It was solid; I knew it was gone right away."

The blast brought home Rachel Berg, who had doubled one batter earlier.

"That definitely was a game-changer," Dailey said. "They came into this thinking they were going to beat us because they have before (11-4 on May 10). That was huge to shut their pitcher down and get them on their toes."

That left the game in the hands of Kohl, who has been pitching on the varsity since eighth grade.

"She's throwing with more confidence and hitting her spots better," Brown said. "She's learning how to pitch and not just throw and you could see that. She kept them off balance and got key outs when she needed to. What more can you ask from your starting pitcher? She did what she needed to do."

Kohl suffered from a pinched rotator cuff as a sophomore, which affected her performance. She decided not to have surgery and used arm bands as a form of rehabilitation.

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"I was really worried about that but I'm perfectly fine this season," Kohl said after the Denfeld game.

ANOKA 5, Duluth East 0

Megan Lindenfelser dominated the Greyhounds, throwing a two-hitter and striking out eight from the mound and doubling twice and driving in a run from the plate.

The win pushed the third-seeded Tornadoes (13-2) into the winners' bracket final against No. 1 seed Forest Lake, which scored 26 runs in its two wins.

Sam Gardner added three RBIs for Anoka.

Duluth East 6, St. francis 4

The Greyhounds broke a 4-4 tie with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to earn the win. Ellie Mostrom had two hits and drove in three runs, while winning pitcher Kohl struck out four.

Chisago Lakes Area 2,

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Duluth Denfeld 1

Freshman Alexandra Smith allowed only four hits and Miranda Steinmetz drove in both runs with a pair of doubles in an elimination game.

Steinmetz broke a 1-1 tie by doubling in Joplin Klick in the sixth.

Hendrickson, one of five Hunters seniors, threw a six-hitter and struck out five.

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