After a dormant week between the end of the regular season and start of the postseason, Northfield softball took a few innings to regain the talent that placed it atop the rest of the Section 1AAA field.
Once the Class AAA No. 3 Raiders recalibrated, though, they obliterated fourth-seeded Red Wing 15-0 Thursday at Austin Todd Park in the Section 1AAA playoffs with the help of a five-run third inning and a nine-run fourth inning to invoke the run rule.
“We get hot and we stay hot, I guess,” senior Anika Guggisberg said.
Before Northfield (16-3) heated up, it was Guggisberg pacing the offense and making sure the Wingers (11-12) didn’t grab an early lead with her defense in center.
In the top of the second, Justine Swenning laced a fly ball out toward the wall in right-center field, only for Guggisberg to chase it down for the second out of the inning.
“She’s a great athlete,” Northfield coach Ryan Pietsch said. “She made a great catch today going back on a ball that was hit pretty well, and she’s made some great catches out there for us over the years. It’s one of the spots where you put one of your better athletes, and we think she’s one of those. She does a great job for us out there.”
She hasn’t always been that steady center fielder for the Raiders, though. For the majority of last season, Guggisberg patrolled second base since there was a hole in the lineup that needed to be filled.
Now, she’s back where she feels most comfortable — running down potential doubles and triples in the gaps and turning them into simple flyouts in the scorebook. After she did that in the top of the second Thursday, she turned around and provided Northfield with the lead in the bottom half.
Sophomore catcher Chloe Rozga started the rally with a one-out infield single before junior courtesy runner Noelle Hauskins stole second. That allowed Guggisberg to poke an RBI single to right field.
Then, in the bottom of the third, she continued a Raider offensive onslaught with a two-RBI single. In addition to that knock, Northfield was helped in that third inning by a two-run double from junior Anne Fossum and an RBI single by junior Emma Johnson.
That continued into the fourth inning, when senior Jillian Noel launched a two-run homer, sophomore Mikaela Girard laced a two-RBI single and Fossum brought the run rule into play with a two-RBI single.
“I’m feeling pretty good (at the plate), and I know the rest of my team is feeling really good, too, especially with out pitcher Brynn (Hostettler) throwing super- well,” Guggisberg said. “We just want to score runs for her.”
Hostettler finished the four-inning complete game with six strikeouts, only one hit allowed, a walk and a pair of hit by pitches.
She’ll be on the mound again Tuesday, when Northfield will take on second-seeded and Class AAA No. 4-ranked Winona (15-5) in the championship of the winner’s bracket. The victor in Tuesday’s game will need just one more win to clinch a spot in the state tournament, while the loser will need to win three times to advance.
Last year, the Raiders lost the winner’s bracket championship 3-1 to the Winhawks and were unable to to fight past them in the rematch.
“I think we’re a lot more confident this year,” Guggisberg said. “That’s how we started when you first talked to us (at the beginning of the season). We felt like we had the experience to go far, and I think we’re proving it now in the postseason.”