Four St. Peter softball players got a chance to play with some of the best competition in the state this last weekend at Jefferson Fields in St. Peter and Caswell Park in North Mankato.
But they didn’t play for St. Peter.
They played on two different teams in the 18-team 18U Mankato Peppers Classic Thursday through Saturday. The tournament featured 93 teams in four age groups: 12U, 14U 16U and 18U.
St. Peter senior-to-be Olivia Stevens plays first base for the St. Charles Flyers who finished 6-1 and runner-up in the Gold Bracket.
Three Saints play for the Rochester Royals.
Olivia McCabe, a 2017 St. Peter graduate who will be a sophomore at the College of St. Benedict’s, is a shortstop in her third year with the Royals who went 3-1-3 and took second in the Silver Bracket.
Her younger sister, junior Allie McCabe, who is undecided where she will play in college, is in her second season catching for Rochester. She played on the 16U team last year.
Pitcher Mackenzie Brey, who will be a freshman this fall at Gustavus Adolphus College, joined the Royals this year after playing with the Minnesota Sting last year.
Allie McCabe said having her high school teammates on her team has made it more enjoyable this summer.
“Mackenzie fit in real well,” Allie McCabe said. “She is still an amazing pitcher, and I love to catch her. It’s fun to not have her season be over after her senior year.”
The Royals other pitcher is Anna Taylor of Rochester Lourdes which won state this year.
In the 18U bracket, there were 18 teams from three different countries. The teams from Australia made the longest trip from the other side of the world to experience Minnesota softball.
The Aussie Diamond Green proved that they belong by tying the Royals 1-1 in pool play Friday.
There are also three teams from Canada, six from Wisconsin, five from Minnesota and two from Nebraska.
The Royals finished 2-0-3 in pool play Friday, defeating Central Wisconsin Edge 6-5 and Mankato Peppers Elite 5-0 and tying Aussie Diamond Green 1-1, Winnipeg Lightning 2-2 and MS Valley Pride 4-4. That advanced the Royals to the Silver Bracket on Saturday at Caswell where they defeated Central (Merrill) Wisconsin Edge 6-5, Manitoba Thunder 7-1 and lost in the championship to the TC Blitz of Lakeville 1-0.
“I’m very proud of this team” Allie McCabe said. “I think we did very well. We had good bats this weekend. Our defense is always there. Our coach says that we have the best defense out of any team in any tournament we play in, and I believe him. We’re super unstoppable, and have good athletes all around the team.
“I’m also really proud of Olivia Stevens. Their team is unbeatable. She’s fitting right in with their team. She works hard and made good relationships with all those girls. And she’s overcoming injuries.”
Asked about the competition, Allie McCabe said, “We stuck with every team in the tournament, even the team from Australia. Their pitcher was amazing. We hoped on her right away. It was also very cool seeing all these teams from all over come and play with us. They’re very nice girls, too. I think we can play with any team in the state.”
Olivia McCabe is a vacuum cleaner at shortstop.
“I have total confidence in Olivia,” Allie McCabe said of her big sister. “Every ball that gets to her I know she’s going to make the play and she inspires me.”
During the tournament, Brey posted a 2.25 ERA and batted .222 with a .364 on-base percentage. For the season, she is hitting . 289 with a .357 on-base percentage.
Olivia McCabe batted .350 with a .409 OBP during the tournament. She had three doubles, a triple and a home run. This season she is hitting .400 with an OBP of .431, seven doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Allie McCabe hit .277 with an OBP of .380 with three doubles and two triples. This season she is batting .316 with an OBP of .387, four doubles and two triples.
The Flyers went 4-0 in pool play on Friday with three shutouts: Manitoba Angels 9-0, River City Rage of La Crosse, Wisconsin, 4-0, Stiks Academy of Waukesha, Wisconsin, 3-0, and Nebraska Dominators 9-2. That advanced the Flyers to the Gold Bracket Saturday at Caswell where they defeated MS Valley Pride of Holmen, Wisconsin, 5-1, the Aussie Diamond Gold 4-3 and lost in the finals to Aussie Diamond Green 2-0.
The Flyers (25-2) won the Lakeville Classic, Down and Dirty in Eagan and Rochester State and National Qualifying Tournament.
Most of the girls are from small towns around Rochester. In addition to Stevens, two St. Peter girls play for the Flyers U16 team: Hannah Brenke and Jillian Wahl.
“The girls jell real well, and they’re good athletes,” Flyers coach Bryan Todd said. “Lexi Chase is a very good pitcher from Chatfield. The other girls are good hitters. They’re athletic and they all put the ball in play and they run.”
The Flyer’s only other loss (3-1) was to Faribault, which features all-state pitcher McKayla Armbruster, who won the state Ms. Softball Award and led her team to the state Class AAA title. The Flyers came back to beat Faribault in the finals in the qualifier in Rochester.
Stevens pitched about eight games earlier in the year until she suffered an elbow injury.
“She’s a good ball player,” Todd said. “It really hurts us that she’s injured. She gives us everything with a great bat and great defense. She was playing short until her arm went out. Hopefully we can get her back. She won’t be throwing again this summer, and hopefully she’ll be back for St. Peter (High School) next spring. St. Peter moves up to AAA, so it will be tougher.”
The Royals and Flyers Play next in the Gold State Tourney Saturday and Sunday at Miller Park in Eden Prairie. Both teams have goals of winning state.
“This Flyers won last year as a 16U team, so we’re hoping to repeat as 18, which would be quite an accomplishment,” Todd said.
Then the Flyers take the weekend off and go to Northern Nationals in Sioux Falls. The Royals are going to the Class A Nationals July 23-27 in Kansas City. Allie McCabe went there last year with the 16U team and placed eighth. The Royals 18U team didn’t place in nationals.