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State softball: Cherry advances to Class A title game

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- Cherry has a chance to complete more unfinished business. Shaina Novak and company made sure of that. The senior pitcher tossed a two-hitter in the quarterfinals and came back with a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory over New Li...

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- Cherry has a chance to complete more unfinished business. Shaina Novak and company made sure of that.

The senior pitcher tossed a two-hitter in the quarterfinals and came back with a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory over New Life Academy in the semifinals tonight at Caswell Park, ending the Eagles' four-year reign as Minnesota Class A state tournament softball champions and giving the Tigers a shot at their first title in school history.

Top-ranked Cherry (25-0) advances to play Blooming Prairie (22-3) in the championship game at 1 p.m. Friday. New Life Academy (17-8) defeated Cherry 8-2 a year ago in the final.

"It feels better than last year for sure, being a senior," said Novak, who gave up only an infield single that could have been scored an error and allowed only one batter to reach third base.

"Shaina did a perfect job pitching two good games today," Tigers coach Darrell Bjerklie said. "She was probably the difference in both games because our hitting wasn't stellar. I think the girls were playing the New Life team of last year.""

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New Life, a private school in Woodbury, Minn., won four consecutive titles with a veteran lineup and dominating pitching. But this year's squad includes two seventh-graders, five freshmen -- including starting pitcher Valerie Hohol -- -- four sophomores, two juniors and no seniors on its roster.

DeAnn Bjerklie doubled and scored on Taylor Sauter's single in the first inning and that run held up until Kirstin Lahti hit an inside-the-park home run with one out in the sixth. On the play, New Life's center fielder raised her arms to signal that the ball was under the fence but quickly grabbed the ball and relayed it to the infield.

Lahti never slowed down.

"I felt like I needed to run as fast as I could," the junior outfielder said. "I just kept going."

Bjerklie didn't take his eyes off the play and waved Lahti around third base.

"Just because a girl raises her hand doesn't mean anything," he said. "Maybe the ball is at the bottom of the fence and the umpire has to go out there. That's a live ball so I waved Kirstin on. She had just about gotten to third when (the outfielder) picked the ball up, and I told her, 'You keep going.'"

Related Topics: SOFTBALL
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