As the time was ticking down until Friday’s Class A third-place game at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Randolph softball coach Dennis Trom was growing increasingly agitated.
Fourteen hours before, the Rockets lost in the state semifinals, but were now booting the ball around during infield warmups. So, before first pitch, Trom said he “raised his voice a little” while reminding his team of the opportunity to secure a second straight third-place finish at the state tournament.
It must have been a rousing speech, since Randolph proceeded to blast top-seeded New York Mills, the two-time defending state champs, 16-3 in only five innings.
“After last night, it was really tough for all of us,” sophomore Morgyn Otte said. “We were all really down, and even coming into this game warmups were terrible. We were all still in the dumps from last night, but Trom told us we needed to pick it up and finish the tournament strong because this was the last game of the season.
Otte went the distance on the mound while striking out four and allowing only four hits, although she was staked to a pretty sizable lead by the time she stepped into the circle for the first time.
Randolph (24-3) stacked up four runs in the top of the first, added six more in the top of the second and another pair of runs in the top of the third. Sophomores Megan Erickson, Meredith Taylor and Cheyann Freundschuh and Mackenna Otte, a junior, finished with a pair of hits, while Taylor roped the only extra-base hit of the game with a double.
Junior Maddie Dibble also walked three times and stole three bases, while Morgyn Otte walked twice, singled and scored three times.
“We all had way more energy than we did yesterday, and a lot of that was because of the first inning,” Mackenna Otte said. “We just kept the energy enough and were encouraging our teammates.”
It helped that the opponent Friday was New York Mills (24-4), the two-time defending state champs and the same team that knocked Randolph into the third-place game last year with a 5-2 win in the 2018 semifinals.
“The fact that they’ve won state two years in a row and the fact they beat us last year, it really was a lot of motivation for us to push them into the ground and keep going,” Morgyn Otte said. “We weren’t going to give up on them, and we were going to keep pushing ourselves.”
The win secured the second consecutive third-place finish in the state tournament in the program’s first two trips to the state tournament, and did so with the help of four graduating seniors this year in Lindsey Grant, Andrea Splichal, Kenna Foss and Kylie Blonigen.
“Kylie is the loudest, most cheerful person I’ve ever met in my life, Andrea and Kendra do a great job in the field and Lindsey’s an amazing batter,” Morgyn Otte said. “They all have a role on the team, they all know it, and they all do well at it, so it’s going to be hard to do well without them next year.”
The goal for next year stays the same as it was for this season — change the trophy hoisted at the end of the year.
Given the fact Randolph is returning seven of the 10 starters from the third-place game, and the program has lost only five games in the last two seasons, there’s plenty of reason to believe that’s possible.
“We’re definitely a strong program, and I think there’s a lot still ahead of us with us being a young team,” Mackenna Otte said. “We’re looking to come back next year and hopefully place higher. That was our hope this year, but I’m still fine with third. That’s nothing to complain about.”