It wasn’t the dream finish the squad might have hoped for, but the Le Sueur-Henderson softball team represented itself well at the state tournament June 6-7, finishing as the sixth best team in Class AA.
The Giants season ended Friday morning with a tough 1-0 loss in a pitching and defensive duel with Annandale in the consolation championship game. The loss came after a difficult-to-take 4-3 opening round loss to Thief River Falls followed by a dominating 7-0 consolation round win over Esko.
The game between LS-H and Annandale was deadlocked most of the way through until Atoms first baseman Morgan Jones knocked one out of the park for the game’s only score. The Giants had more hits and more runners on base throughout the game, but they weren’t able to push anyone across home plate.
The Giants were making contact from the beginning, and they hit three fly balls in the top of the first inning, but all three were caught for outs. On the mound, LS-H pitcher Kelsey Berndt gave up a single, but nothing more in the first.
The Giants continued meeting bat with ball at the plate, but grounded out twice to start the second inning. Finally, Erica Cronk hit the ball away from Annandale fielders, managing a double and the first extra base hit of the game. But Paige Fasching was able to strike out the next batter and get the Atoms out of the inning. Berndt had a bit of an up-and-down second, striking out the first two and then walking the next two, but she secured a fly ball out to escape the jam.
In the third, Halle Bemmels was able to knock another single for the Giants, but it was the lone hit of the inning. Annandale also produced a single and nothing more in the third.
LS-H continued hitting the ball in the fourth but straight to Atoms defenders for outs. And in the bottom of the same inning, Jones made the difference with her solo shot. Berndt went on to strike out the next three batters, but the single run was enough to decide the game.
The Giants came close to evening the score in the bottom of the fifth, but lost out on a play at the plate. Erica Cronk notched her second double of the game to lead off the inning. Rhyan Fritz then bunt singled, advancing Cronk to third; Fritz made it to second after an errant throw.
Keely Olness then hit a fly ball to the outfield, and Cronk attempted to tag and run home. Annandale got the ball to catcher Josey Marquette in time to make the tag. The next Giants batter flew out to end the inning.
Berndt got a single in the sixth and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, but that was as far as a Giants runner would get the rest of the way. Annandale held on for the 1-0 victory.
Berndt finished with six strikeouts and just three hits and one earned run against for the game. The Giants had five hits to Annandale’s three. Neither team had an error in the game.
Despite the 1-2 record at state, the Giants showed they were among the best teams, narrowly losing twice and dominating in their lone victory. But as any season finale goes, it’s a bittersweet feeling for the Giants players. Olness and her fellow underclassmen have to say goodbye to six key LS-H senior players: Elizabeth Milam, Bemmels, Berndt, Cronk, Mia Preuhs and Emily Wilke.
“We’ll miss them,” Olness said.
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