It was fitting that Anoka senior Megan Lindenfelser was so involved in Anoka’s bid for its first state softball tournament trophy.
Lindenfelser struck out 10 in nine innings as the winning pitcher and drove in the decisive run in Anoka’s 3-2 win against North St. Paul in the Class AAA third place game at Caswell Park in Mankato Friday afternoon.
The winning run came off the bat of Lindenfelser who flew-out to left field, allowing Alyssa Wicks to score on the sacrifice fly in the top half of the ninth inning.
In the bottom half of the ninth, Lindenfelser struck out one and fielded a ground ball cleanly to end the game.
Anoka had chances to end the game in the seventh inning, but once again the typically lucky number seven was anything but as the Polars made the most of a throwing error and tied the game with a two-out base hit.
To reach the hardware game of the state tournament, Anoka dismissed Becker 5-1 in the quarterfinals Thursday morning before eventual state champion Lakeville South shutout the Tornadoes 11-0 in five innings in the semifinal.
Anoka didn’t let the pressure of a state tournament opener get in the way of a win.
“The girls had a lot of energy and our warm up went well,” coach Toni Jesinoski said. “They weren’t nervous – just calm, cool and collected … I was nervous but we got ourselves out of jams early and got some hits together and had fun.”
Against Becker, Taylor Chell came through with a big day at the plate with a pair hit,s including a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning to open the scoring.
She was also a part of Anoka’s three-run fifth inning.
Wicks’ lead-off bunt single started rally but the damage came with two outs. Dayja Rosario reached on a fielder’s choice and moved up to second and third bases on a passed ball and wild pitch, respectively. Chell was credited for driving in Rosario on a fielding error by Becker to keep the inning going. Lindenfelser’s patience at the plate resulted in a walk before Morgan Paavenrud drove in Chell on an infield RBI-single. Abbey Elliot followed with a base hit to center field to score Lindenfelser.
Elliot earned the win on the mound for Anoka, limiting the Bulldogs to just two hits and one unearned run over five innings. She struck out seven and walked four before Lindenfelser struck out three batters over the final two innings in relief.
After the first-round win, Anoka watched Lakeville South and Orono play into extra innings before the Cougars eventually won.
Jesinoski and the coaching staff had two different game plans to deal with separate semifinal start times either noon or 3 p.m. The Cougars had to return home for graduation that evening so the semifinal was moved up three hours to noon in Mankato.
“Noon was good for us with the small break between games instead of waiting until 3 (p.m.),” Jesinoski said, hoping to ride the momentum to another win. Instead, a first inning throwing error kind of set the tone of a rare off-game for the Tornadoes.
“We struggled with the strike zone both on offense and defense,” Jesinoski said. “Megan and Dayja got calls for them all season then not at state so that was frustrating.”
Anoka ran into an overwhelming Lakeville South team that scored eight times in the fifth and final inning.
Lakeville South’s Amanda Bloomquist highlighted the big innings with a grand slam in support of pitcher Kylie Stober’s three-hit bid the win.
Rosario, Lindenfelser and Paaverud accounted for the only Anoka hits.
“We had our opportunities and were the home team but (Stober) was good and moved the ball around well,” Jesinoski said. “We didn’t click and it just looked like they weren’t having fun. It was just one of those games which was something we never had to face all season.”
The Tornadoes stranded Zimmer at third base in the first inning and ended the fourth inning with bases loaded, down 3-0. The fourth inning included back-to-back hits from Paaverud and Lindenfelser before Sjodin walked to load the bases before Laura King struck out.
Lindenfelser took the loss on the rubber going 4.1 innings, giving up nine earned runs on 10 hits with five strike outs and two walks.
Thursday night the team put the loss behind them with a team dinner and more team bonding before turning the focus to ending the season on a high note. “The message to them was, ‘What’s the worst that could happen, fourth place at state?’ We came all this way and to be one of the four best teams in the state is great,” Jesinoski said, looking to motivate the team for one more win.
Rosario and Lindenfelser were named to the 10-member Class AAA All-Tournament team. Maple Grove’s Jordan Mauch, Sydney Smith and Samantha Sadler were also named to the team along with three Lakeville South players.
Jesinoski added that the two seniors were deserving of the individual honor after setting the standard for leadership in the program for years to come. She added, “They did an outstanding job mentoring the underclassmen and showed the importance of putting in the hard work and dedication and what can happen if they commit themselves.”
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