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Softball: Polars advance in section play with win over Stillwater
The North Polars were cruising along May 28 in semifinal Section 4AAA softball action at the McKnight Fields complex.
At the end of five innings North - behind the slants of hurler Haley Schanks - had a comfortable 5-0 leeway over their opponent, the Stillwater Ponies.
Schanks had nine K’s and had given up just one hit at that point in the game, when suddenly in the top of the sixth, things fell apart.
A walk to the number eight hitter was followed by two errors that loaded the sacks with no outs. Natalie Gerber then laced a sacrifice line shot to centerfield and Stillwater was on the board.
To the plate strode Natalie Ingram who took a pitch before she launched a “no doubt” shot 233 feet out of the yard for a three-run home run.
The Stillwater fans were suddenly back in the game with the count 5-4.
In the last of the sixth, North responded with a couple of huge runs and the final 7-4 was posted.
Following the game, Schanks smiled and said, “It was a huge team effort. My teammates gave me big support throughout the game. It got kind of scary in the sixth when they got those runs, but we got those big runs in the bottom of the inning. At that point we were able to stop the bleeding.”
Stillwater coach Bob Beedle gave the Polars credit when he said, “It took us a while, but we were finally able to get some runs. North has a great program and they are well coached. Their pitcher is terrific. She threw a great game. It just took us a while to finally get some runs. They have a good team, and I have a lot of respect for their program.”
The loss for Stillwater was their first in the playoffs. They played a second game and went eight innings before dropping a 4-3 decision to Woodbury.
North coach Cliff Charpentier stated, “It was a good test for us. Haley (Schanks) was great again on the mound. She hung in there and came through for us when she had to to get the win. Those runs in the sixth were huge. The bunt by (Julia) Tanzer and the pinch hit by (Megan) Rubbelke were what we needed to get back the lead we needed. It was a team win for us where everyone contributed.”
The win put the Polars (1) into the championship game against Woodbury (3) in a game that was played May 29.
The Polars picked up their runs with one in the second. Allison Knutson worked a one-out walk. A pop up later Kayla Koemptgen belted a shot into left field and Knutson flew home.
In the bottom of the third, clean up hitter Erin Jungmann unleashed a shot that cleared the centerfield fence for a 223-foot “tater” that pushed the score to 2-0.
In the fourth the Polars added a couple more. Mady Strom laced a single up the middle. She moved to second on an infield out and came home on a shot by Katelyn Stepaniak. Schanks then belted a double into deep centerfield that put Stepaniak across to push the North lead to 4-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Knutson led off and was thumped by a pitch. Strom sacrificed her to second and beat the peg at first. Knutson headed to third but was cut down. Strom came home on a double off the bat of Lily Langevin.
Then came the Stillwater uprising in the top of the sixth that moved them to within on run at 5-4.
In the last of the sixth, Schanks (she was 2-for-3) banged a single. Georgie Robasse went in to run for her. Jungmann was out on a smash to the infield.
Tanzer then slapped a sac bunt over the drawn-in infield and Robasse scored from second base. A second out later Rubbelke singled to right to score Tanzer and the 7-4 final was posted.
Wally Wakefield can be reached at email@example.com.