Anoka softball loses heartbreaker in state championship

Sports Reporter
Sam is the sports reporter for ABC Newspapers, covering high school, junior college and community sports in the area. He joined the staff in October 2016.
Anoka players receive their Class 4A state runner-up trophy Friday. (Photo by Sam Herder)
Anoka players receive their Class 4A state runner-up trophy Friday. (Photo by Sam Herder)

For the second day in a row at the Class 4A softball state tournament, Anoka found itself in a 0-0 ballgame in extra innings. On June 8, the No. 2-seeded Tornadoes defeated No. 3 Woodbury 1-0 in 13 innings to advance to the state championship game at Mankato’s Caswell Park. The next day, they ended up on the wrong side of a walkoff win.

In the bottom of the 10th, tied at 0-0, No. 5 Farmington’s Emma Frost hit a two-out solo home run to win her team the state title.

“I’m very proud of them,” Anoka head coach Toni Jesinoski said. “They step on the field every game from the beginning of the season to now and they give it their all. We’ve had some really close games and had to fight through some adversity. I told them at the beginning of the tournament that if they step on the field and give it your all and if you come out on the losing end, I’m still very proud of them.”

It was a sudden defeat for Anoka, who rode the dominating arm of pitcher Amber Elliott.

The senior went all 13 innings in the win against Woodbury with 13 strikeouts. She also recorded the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 13th when her grounder to the second baseman scored Kaitlyn Backman from third.

In the championship game, Elliott went the distance again. This time she struck out 17 batters.

But Frost got ahold of one with the game-winning solo shot over the left field fence.

“It does wear on them,” Jesinoski said on the long, low-scoring games. “The kids had some good rest last night. It was in their mind that Amber pitched a lot of innings yesterday. We were thankful that Molly (Swenson) was able to pitch yesterday as well (in the 5-3 quarterfinal win against Hopkins). Coming into today, they were pumped. We knew it was going to be a tough game. And honestly, we probably didn’t think it was going to end in seven. We just ended up on the losing end of it.”

Offensively, the Tornadoes ran into Farmington’s ace Maddie Muelken, who threw the complete game shutout and ended the tournament with 17 straight scoreless innings.

Elliot, a Miss Softball finalist, allowed just two runs in the tournament in 26.2 innings, striking out 41 total batters.

“She just fights through everything and shows resilience,” Jesinoski said. “I asked her how long she thought she could go. I know she wanted this really bad and so I was going to let her go a couple more innings.”

Anoka ends its season 25-2 overall.

“My record with these seniors is 94 wins and 11 losses,” Jesinoski said. “I think right there speaks to their legacy.”

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(Photos by Sam Herder)
(Photos by Sam Herder)