Just as slowly as the softball season began because of the weather, section tournament time is on us with teams either surviving another round or ending what’s been a wacky spring on the diamond.
Third-seed Anoka not only won both of its section games but did so in impressive style, topping No. 6 Chisago Lakes 15-6 followed by a 5-0 shutout of No. 7 Duluth East at Wheeler Field in Duluth May 25 to reach the championship semifinals.
The balance of strong pitching by Megan Lindenfelser and Hailee Gifford combined with timely hitting has helped the Tornados compile a 13-2 record so far this spring.
Lindenfelser opened sections wtih the win over Chisago Lakes and Gifford picked up the shutout win against Duluth East.
Anoka finished third in the Northwest Suburban Conference behind Maple Grove (10-0) and Elk River (10-2) while only playing one doubleheader all season.
“Looking back on it now, it turned out to be a good thing to have more games than practice but before sections we only had three practices outside,” Anoka coach Toni Jesinowski said. “It seems to have created a shorter season that way and the girls embraced it. We’re frustrated not to get our 20 games in but it was a positive thing looking back.”
Playing so many games in such a short amount of time helped the Tornadoes develop a place for everyone. “Everyone understands and accepts their roles,” Jesinowski said from fielding specialists to pinch batters moving batters around the bases to score one more run.
Jesinowski said Anoka’s offense is the strongest part of the team, led by Lindenfelser and Emilie Brigham each collecting near 30 hits.
Lindenfelser compiled an impressive regular season with a .549 batting average, 1.039 slugging percentage and 1.605 OPS. She drove in 27 runs and hit five home runs. Brigham led the team with 21 runs scored and had nine extra-base hits.
Lindenfelser and Gifford were the primary pitchers this spring with Lindenfelser going 6-1 with a 1.67 ERA, 34:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.6 innings of work. Gifford posted a 41:18 ratio with a 2.04 ERA in 48 innings.
The wins set up a meeting with No. 1 seed Forest Lake
Fifth-seed Andover won for the seventh time in eight games by way of a 12-2 win against No. 12 seed Princeton in the section opener at home in Andover May 22.
Andover’s Paige Dale drove in Maddie Rooney with a solid base hit up the middle in the first inning against Princeton. RBI singles by Jessica Burlingame and Amelia Leger followed to give the Huskies a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Lauren Hein made it 6-0 for Andover with a two-run double down the third baseline in the second inning. Huskies freshman pitcher Hailey Tomberline kept the Tigers off the bases.
Next up was a meeting against No. 4 seed St. Francis at Wheeler Field in Duluth May 25. The Huskies won the game 4-3, thanks in part to a three-run home run by Paige Dale and the go-ahead double by Caitlin Bengry.
Andover followed that with a 16-8 loss to Forest Lake in the second game of the day in Duluth. Andover was up 6-0, but lost junior pitcher Brianna Davis with a line drive to the knee cap.
The loss relegated Andover to the lower half of the bracket which meant one loss and the season was over.
Andover faced No. 6 Chisago Lakes in the third game of the day and emerged with a 10-3 win with offensive help through home runs by sophomores Maddie Rooney and Bengry. The Huskies moved on to face No. 7 Duluth East in Chisago Lakes May 29.
St. Francis topped No. 9 Blaine in the single-elimination round by a 9-4 score May 25, but had its season cut short by Duluth East via a 6-4 score hours later.
The Fighting Saints ended the regular season with a 10-7 record, 7-2 for second place in the North Suburban Conference. Seven batters hit over .300, including Angie Roberts’ team-best .451 batting average (23-51) and she scored a team high 24 runs.
Pitcher Caitlin Luby posted a 2.82 ERA in 62 innings with a 5-3 regular season record and Aimee Cottrell went 5-4 with a 4.57 ERA in 46 innings of work. Each posted one save.
Blaine reached the second game May 25 after a 9-8 win against Cambridge-Isanti followed by a 10-2 loss to Forest Lake. The Bengals finish the season 5-16 overall, 2-10 in the NWSC. Kalli Doyle and Abby Vogel led the Bengals bats hitting .317 and .312, respectively. Doyle collected four extra-base hits and hit the only triple. She drove in and scored seven runs. Vogel scored a team high eight runs and knocked in four runs.
Blaine senior pitcher Jessica Eppenberger posted a 1-8 record with a 6.24 ERA in 49.1 innings of work. She struck out 58 and walked 27. Kelsey Domngal went 2-3 in 30.1 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 15 strike outs.
The Section championship game was set for 3:30 p.m., May 30 at Chisago Lakes.
Fourth-seed Coon Rapids (11-8) reached the section final against top-seed Maple Grove (20-1) whom the Cardinals lost to 6-0 in the second round of sections May 23.
The Crimson won both meetings this season including a 5-1 score April 30.
The Cardinals reached the May 30 section final by clawing its way back into contention for a title after the earlier loss to Maple Grove.
Coon Rapids opened sections with an 11-1 win against No. 12 Totino-Grace.
After the loss to the Crimson, Coon Rapids dug deep to score a 7-2 win against Centennial May 23 followed by a pair of wins May 28. The Cardinals topped Champlin Park 7-1 followed by a 3-2 win against Irondale to reach the final series. If Coon Rapids won the first game against Maple Grove, it would play a second game since the Crimson haven’t lost in the tournament.
Third-seed Spring Lake Park was upset by No. 6 Rogers in the opening round 6-1 and followed that with a 5-0 loss in the lower-bracket quarterfinal against Centennial May 23 to end the season 11-4, 6-3 for fourth place in the North Suburban Conference.