by Scott DCamp
Thief River Falls is one win away from qualifying for the Class AAA fast pitch softball state tournament, after surviving a 16-11 slugfest against defending Section 8AAA champion Alexandria on Wednesday night at the Multi-Events Center in Thief River Falls.
A tight but consistent strike zone led to offensive fireworks for both teams, as the Prowlers and Cardinals combined for 27 runs on 29 hits and 18 walks.
Alexandria got on the board first, with single runs in each of the first three innings. The Prowlers, meanwhile, looked the like the less experienced team. In the field, routine plays were made more difficult and at the plate, an aggressive approach led to two quick innings.
“You never know how kids, or even adults for that matter, are going to react until they’re put into that situation,” said Head Coach Carter Rogalla. “The first two or three innings we were pushing. We were fighting ourselves defensively. We were fighting ourselves offensively. We were swinging at pitcher's pitches.”
In the bottom of the third, the Prowlers’ approach changed. Number eight hitter Breanna Wienen walked on four straight pitches and Lexi Huot got the Prowlers on the board with a two-run home run to right field. Allie Okeson reached on a four-pitch walk and moved to second on a single by Alexa Rogalla. Both batters moved up on Kora Torkelson’s groundout and both base runners scored on a one-out single by Kylea Praska to give the Prowlers a 4-3 lead.
Claire Mattson also singled in the inning to move Praska to third, where she eventually scored on a wild pitch. Mattson also scored in the inning to make it 6-3.
“We decided to start taking a few pitches,” Rogalla said of the team-wide change of approach in the second inning. “We got deeper into the count and drew some walks. We also forced them to throw four or five pitches and got some big hits too.”
Alexandria used a pair of hits and a walk to put another run on the board in the fourth inning to make it 6-4.
The Prolwers responded with their second consecutive six-run inning. This time, the damage was done against Ally Albers who replaced starting pitcher Kendra Hardy after she allowed six runs in two and a-third innings of work. Okeseon reached base by bunting for a base hit. Rogalla and Torkelson were walked to load the bases. Praska walked on four straight pitches to make it 7-4. Mattson singled to score Rogalla from third and keep the bases loaded. The “Outlaw” Josie Davis grounded out to third, with Torkelson scoring to make it 9-4. Camryn Schwab singled to drive in both Praska and Matson to make it 11-4. She also rounded second on the play and scored when the relay throw to the plate to get Mattson went into the Prowler dugout to make it 12-4.
The comfort of an eight-run lead was short lived for the Prowlers. Hardy led off the inning for Alexandria with a hit. Taylor Breztkreutz took Hardy’s spot on first after hitting into a fielders choice. From there, the Cardinals loaded the bases with back-to-back singles by Sydney Christianson and Jamie Lanoue. Emma Ziegler flew out to the shortstop Praska for the second out of the inning. The bases remained loaded, however, and Allison O’Kane singled to drive in a run. Ellie Ronning walked to drive in another; and Callie Richardson hit a grand slam, her second home run of the game, to get the Cardinals back to within two runs at 12-10.
Thief River Falls’ top of the order had another immediate response, as Okeson and Rogalla both reached base and scored on a triple by Kora Torkelson that was inches away from being a three-run home run.
Following Torkelson’s triple, Alexandria went back to Hardy to pitch the remainder of the game. Torkelson scored from third on a single by Praska; and two more Prowlers would reach base in the inning before Hardy escaped the threat without allowing any additional runs.
Lexi Huot pitched the final two innings for the Prowlers, allowing one run on four hits and two walks. The Prowlers also tacked on one more run on Hardy for the 16-11 win.
Rogalla pitched five innings to pick up the win. She allowed nine earned runs on 13 hits and four walks.
Hardy entered the game with a pair of playoff playoff wins in which she hadn’t allowed a run. Wednesday, however, she allowed seven earned runs on seven hits to take the loss.
With the win, Thief River Falls moves on to tomorrow night’s championship game at the MEC where it will face the winner of Alexandria and Sauk Rapids-Rice in a loser-out contest at 4 p.m.
The Section 8AAA championship game will immediately follow the 4 p.m. game between Alexandria and Sauk Rapids-Rice.
r h e
Alexandria…………111 160 1 – 11 17 2
Thief River Falls….006 631 x – 16 12 2
Pitching – (TRF) Alexa Rogalla – W, 5 IP, 13 hits, 10 runs, 9 earned runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 2 home runs allowed; Lexi Huot – S, 2 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 earned run, 2 walks; (Alexandria) Kendra Hardy – L, 4.1 IP, 7 runs, 6 earned runs, 8 walks, 2 HBP, home run allowed; Ally Albers 1.2 IP, 3 hits, 9 runs, 7 earned runs, 4 walks.
Offensive highlights (TRF) Lexi Huot ¼, home run, 2 RBI; Allie Okeson 3/3, 3 runs scored; Kylea Praska 2/3, 4 RBI; Kora Torkelson ¼, triple, 2 RBIs; (Alexandria) Callie Richardson 3/3, 2 home runs, grand slam, 5 RBIs.