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Polars win one, lose two; end up in fourth place in state Class AAA softball action
The North softball nine returned to state tournament softball action for the first time since 2011 that was held in North Mankato June 5-6.
The Polars played in between rain storms on the opening day of the tourney and gained a win and a loss.
North opened state tournament action with an exciting 2-1 victory over Bloomington Jefferson.
Next, they went up against the No. 1-rated team in the state and dropped a 4-1 decision to Maple Grove.
The loss put them into contention for the third place trophy June 6, against Anoka. Again the Polars went down, this time 2-1, but they pressed the action to nine innings before losing.
North 2 — Bloomington Jefferson 1
The Polars opened their 12th state tournament appearance against the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars June 5.
Following the game, North coach Cliff Charpentier said, “We hung in there. We stayed in the game and then found a way to win. That’s what this team does. We have been doing that in close games all year long. We seem to find a way to gain the win.”
Charpentier went on to mention that in the contest, sophomore Lily Langevin went 4-for-4 and collected half of the eight North hits in the game.
The Jaguars put a run on the board in the upper third inning on a single and a double. From that point on, the Polars — though they committed three errors — were able to hold the Jaguars off the board.
In the last minutes of the sixth, North picked up a run to knot the score at 1-1.
Lily Langevin led off and cracked a single to left centerfield. Katelyn Stepaniak bunted her to second. Haley Schanks then beat out a slow roller to the right side as Langevin advanced to third. Erin Jungmann then put down a suicide bunt as Langevin flew home and was safe on the play at the plate.
In the upper seventh, the Jaguars went down in order.
Mady Strom worked a walk to begin the last of the seventh inning. In stepped Allison Knutson and sacrificed Strom to second.
At that point, the Polars sent Abby Glaus to pinch run for Strom at second base. That put L. Langevin at the plate and she promptly slammed a single to left centerfield. The speedy Glaus flew home from second base and the Polars claimed the exciting 2-1 opening game win.
Maple Grove 4 — North 1
In the second game of the day, North went up against the No. 1-ranked team in the state for much of the 2014 season — the Maple Grove Crimson.
On the mound for the Crimson was pitching ace junior Sydney Smith. Behind the slants of Smith, the Polars’ potent bats were suddenly silenced.
The only hit in the game for the Polars came in the last of the seventh and was a bloop single over the head of the second sacker.
Meanwhile Haley Schanks, on the mound for North, allowed just seven hits, while striking out five.
The Crimson put a run across in the top of the third. A pair of singles, a couple of walks and a fielder’s choice allowed a run to score.
In the top of the sixth, Maple Grove put the winning runs across the plate. A single up the middle was followed by a pair of outs. Then Megan Mulchrone stepped to the plate and took a liking to an offering by Schanks.
The ball sailed over the left field fence for a two-run home run that pushed the count to 3-0 and took the wind out North’s sails.
In the upper seventh, Maple Grove added another on a pair of hits to push their leeway to 4-0.
In the bottom of the seventh, a couple of Maple Grove errors put North’s first two batters — Lily Langevin and Katelyn Stepaniak — on base.
A strikeout later, Erin Jungmann pushed the ball over second base for a single and the bases were loaded. Carli Langevin produced the only run and Lily Langevin scored from third.
Following the game coach Charpentier told his charges, “She is the top pitcher for the top team in the state. We just didn’t get to her early. Don’t get down. We have had a great season. You are a team that doesn’t quit. We’ve had a great ride, but it isn’t over. We still have a game left tomorrow. If you think about it, we were just one swing of the bat of getting right back into the game. We just didn’t get that hit we needed.”
When coach Charpentier told the Polars “it isn’t over,” he was referring to the June 6 meeting North had against Anoka that would be played for the third place trophy.
Anoka 3 — North 2
If the game against Maple Grove was a heartbreaker for the Polars, it turned out it was a game that only set the stage for the contest against the Anoka Tornadoes.
The Tornadoes put a pair of runs on a couple of doubles and a throwing error to take a 2-0 margin at the end of their bats in the top of the first.
In the last of the first, Lily Langevin led off with a single to left. She moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball. A walk later and Haley Schanks singled to centerfield and Langevin scored.
Anoka left a couple of runners stranded in their half of the seventh, but the score remained 2-1 until North came to bat in the last of the seventh.
Erin Jungmann hit a ball to the left side and reached second on a throwing error. Katelyn Stepaniak went in to run for Jungmann.
A grounder to the right side for the second out moved Katelyn Stepaniak to third. Carli Langevin then hit a slow roller to the left side and beat the peg at first as Katelyn Stepaniak scored the tying run.
In the top of the ninth, Anoka led off with an infield single followed by a shot to right field. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to third and second. An intentional walk loaded the sacks in front of a sacrifice fly to left field that gave Anoka a 3-2 leeway.
North put a runner on in their half of the ninth on a single by Julia Tanzer, but she was left stranded and the Tornadoes claimed the win with the run in the top half of the ninth inning.
The Polars finished the season with a record of 22-6 and will return next year with a nucleus of 14 players on their roster. North will lose 10 senior players to graduation.
Wally Wakefield can be reached at email@example.com