5/29/2014 4:42:00 PM Wildcats season comes to an abrupt end in 7AAA
by CHUCK FITZER
In last Saturday’s Section 7AAA playoffs, the fourth-seeded Wildcat softball team lost their opener to St. Francis 6-1. They rebounded to beat ninth-seeded North Branch 9-3. And in an elimination game, they lost to second-seeded Forest Lake 11-2, ending the Wildcats’ season. All three games were played at Andover.
St. Francis 6, Chisago Lakes 1 Unfortunately, the old adage “the third time’s the charm” did not hold true for the Wildcats in the opening game of the double-elimination section tournament. The Wildcats lost twice to the Fighting Saints during the regular season. By virtue of a tougher schedule, with a higher QRF ranking, the Wildcats were seeded above the Fighting Saints in the playoffs and were the home team for the first game on Saturday. But the Saints broke a scoreless tie with four unearned runs in the fourth inning and held the Wildcat offense at bay, beating the Wildcats 6-1 and knocking them into the loser’s half of the bracket. Wildcat starter Alex Smith was dominant in the first three innings. Only two runners reached base, both on errors, and she struck out five.
But her St. Francis counterpart, Aimee Cottrell, was equally effective. She allowed just two baserunners, including a second inning double by Quinncy Zupko, and struck out six. Smith struggled to start the fourth inning. The first two batters singled. After a strikeout, another single loaded the bases. The next batter popped up for the second out. When the succeeding batter hit an infield grounder, it looked like Smith has worked her way out of it. But the batter reached on an error, a run scored and the bases were still loaded. The next batter, the number nine hitter, singled to the right side and three runs scored to make it 4-0.
A groundout by the next batter ended the inning, but the damage was done. The Wildcats got one run back in the bottom of the inning. Alex Smith doubled to left center and, one out later, scored on Quinncy Zupko’s single to right to get the Wildcats on the board. But the Wildcats were held hitless the rest of the way. The Fighting Saints added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings and sent the Wildcats on their way to an elimination game against North Branch. In taking the complete game loss, Smith allowed eight hits, but walked just one and struck out seven. Only two of the six runs scored by St. Francis were earned.
Chisago Lakes 9, North Branch 3 In the Wildcats’ second game of the day, against North Branch, first baseman Joplin Klick drove in four runs with a single, a double and a home run. The Wildcats used a five run second inning to go up 7-0. The Vikings came back with three unearned runs in the top of the third to go up 7-3. But reliever Cassie Lynch and the Wildcat defense held the Vikings off the scoreboard after that. The Wildcats ended up with a 9-3 win and a chance to meet Forest Lake in an elimination game. In the bottom of the first inning, Sami Sandretto singled and Bree Lang reached on an error, putting runners on second and third with no outs. One out later, Klick singled to left center to drive in both runners and put the Wildcats up 2-0.
In the bottom of the second, Kari Martinka led off with a double to center field. She took third on Brooke Mueller’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Sandretto reached on an error. Lang singled to put runners on first and second. A single by Alex Smith, a double by Klick and singles by Quinncy Zupko and Emily Hammer each drove in a run, extending the Wildcat lead to 7-0. In the top of the third, Lynch relieved Alex Smith, who had already pitched nine innings that day. With one out, Kaylee Lofboom and Megan Carlson walked. Kelsey Baffin reached on an error to load the bases. Paige Yoch reached on an error to drive in one run and the bases were still loaded.
Hannah Hubbard singled to left to drive in another run. Jaclyn Bossard grounded to first, driving in another run to cut the Wildcats lead to 7-3. But with runners on second and third, Lynch induced Megan Carlson to pop out to third, ending the Viking rally at three runs. In the bottom of the fourth, Klick hit a blast over the fence in left center to stretch the Wildcat lead to 8-3. Smith singled in Lang in the fifth for the Wildcats’ final run of the game. Lynch picked up the win for the Wildcats in five innings of relief, allowing three unearned runs on three hits, walking three and striking out one.
Forest Lake 11, Chisago Lakes 2 In the Wildcats’ final game on Saturday afternoon, Forest Lake pounded out 12 hits and Wildcat infielders made five errors. It all added up to 11 runs for the Rangers. The Wildcats managed to push across just two runs and went on to lose 11-2. The loss knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs, ending their season. The Rangers scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning, helped along by three Wildcat errors. In the top of the third, Kari Martinka and Caty Karwand each singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. . One out later, Sami Sandretto doubled to left center to score both runners and cut the Ranger lead to 5-2.
Bree Lang grounded out for the second out of the inning. Alex Smith hit a screaming line drive to center, but it was caught by the center fielder for the third out. The Wildcat rally was stopped at two. Forest Lake got those two runs back in the bottom of the third to maintain a five run lead. Ranger Bailey Armstrong hit a three run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning to effectively put the game out of reach.