Prep softball: Mitchell's back-to-back no-hitters lifts Carlton/Wrenshall to section semis
Carlton/Wrenshall pitcher Abby Mitchell struck out 35 batters over the course of two games in the Section 7A tournament.
CLOQUET — Carlton-Wrenshall ace Abby Mitchell recorded back-to-back no-hit gems in wins over No. 6 seed Barnum, 1-0, and No. 2 seed Cherry, 3-0 to vault the Raptors into the semifinal round of the Section 7A tournament, Thursday, May 25 at Braun Park.
Mitchell struck out 35 of 44 batters faced over the two contests while surrendering only one walk in a pair of dominant wins.
“She’s just a warrior. She battles (and) she always gives her all,” Carlton/Wrenshall head softball coach Brent Pokornowski said. “Always the small things too, like she’s the first one at practice, last one to leave. She’s putting up the bow nets for the girls, taking it down, helping the younger pitchers. And what an awesome testament for her to get rewarded with the wins doing those small things that nobody ever gets to see.”
Despite falling 6-3 in their previous matchup with Cherry during the regular season, the Raptors entered the rematch with a collective sense of confidence in their ability to come out on top.
“We walked in knowing we were going to win, and we were just confident all day long, and it worked for us,” Mitchell said.
The team’s confidence was reflected in the opening frame of its matchup with the Tigers, as Kennedy Siiter drove in the game’s first run on a two-out fly ball inside the third-base line to score Francesca Klimek, who reached on an error after advancing on a bunt by Eliza DeCaigny.
After making five trips to the plate before generating a run in their previous game against Barnum, the early run support provided a large boost of momentum, according to Mitchell.
“That was huge for us, being able to get a run in the first inning,” she said. “I mean, that just set the tone for us and we were able to continue that throughout the game.”
Mitchell ensured that the lead was in safe-keeping by striking out the side in the latter half of the inning. She went on to strike out 14 more Cherry batters before game’s end, while allowing only one base runner via a fielding error.
After scattering two hits over their next four trips to the plate, the Raptors’ bats came alive again in the top of the sixth, which began with a double to left field by DeCaigny, followed right after by a bunt single from Mitchell to get two aboard.
With no outs and Siiter up to bat, the senior first baseman punched in the team’s second run of the game on a groundout to second base. Seventh-grader Jaylah Crane added a third and final insurance run later in the inning with a fly ball to center field that dropped for a hit.
“It feels really good,” Siiter said of the team’s undefeated start to the section tournament. I mean last year during the playoffs we really struggled to beat Cherry, but we came out stronger than we did last year and beat them.”
No. 3 Carlton/Wrenshall 1, No. 6 Barnum 0
A two-out RBI double by DeCaigny in the fifth inning proved to be the difference in a classic pitcher’s duel between the Bombers’ and Raptors’ top arms, Tuesday, at Braun Park.
Barnum’s Alizondra Collelo struck out 10 batters over six innings pitched, but fell just short of earning the win as Mitchell hurled an 18-strikeout no-hitter, while allowing just one baserunner to get aboard, on a walk in the sixth inning.
“We knew it was going to be a game like that. We played 2-0 earlier this year and we knew she’s a good pitcher,” Barnum head coach Dustin Collelo said. “So (we) tried to stay off the riseball, which I thought we did a pretty good job of, but we just weren’t aggressive enough I think swinging the bats. So we just kept falling behind, and she’s a good pitcher, so it makes it really tough.”
Carlton/Wrenshall finished with six hits over the course of the game, including two in the fifth inning as Klimek reached base on a line drive single to center field, before DeCaigny delivered the game-winning hit in the ensuing at-bat.
Mitchell had her perfect game bid broken up in the following inning after giving up a walk to Julie Langhorst. Langhorst managed to get into scoring position after a sacrifice bunt from MaKenna Nordstrom pushed her over to second base, but never made it further as a strikeout ended the threat.
As Mitchell continued to heat up in the circle, Collelo said the team tried to find ways to generate contact, but were unsuccessful.
“We were trying to choke up, trying to shorten our swings up a little bit. We’re a really young team, so most of our lineup is freshman. We haven't seen that type of pitching,” Collelo said. “So (it was) a good experience for them, and the more they see it, hopefully the better they are with it.”