Nikaija Young

Nikaija Young singles on a pitch from Lester Prairie. (Carson Huighes/southernminn.com)

The Tri-City United softball team was locked blow for blow with Lester Prairie on Friday. The two teams were dead even and swapped leads until the Titans collected a one-run edge in the seventh inning, winning the game 11-10.

It was apparent from the start that  the two teams were closely matched. Lester Prairie opened the top of the first scoring two runs, only for the Titans to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom.

Ellaina Novak batted in both Brooke Blaschko and Molly Closser with a single after the two players singled and doubled respectively.

The Titans took the lead in the second. After a scoreless inning for Lester Prairie, TCU added three runs to their score. Nikaija Young doubled and was knocked into home by Closser. Anastasia Rynda then collected two RBIs, knocking in Closser and Novak with a double.

But the Titans’ 5-2 lead didn’t last long. Lester Prairie struck back with a seven-run inning. With an error, single and a walk at the top of the third, Lester Prairie had the bases loaded and scored runs with every hit. The Titans finally put an end to the onslaught with two strikeouts from Novak and a pop out caught by Kacie Traxler on second base, but TCU now had to play catch up to Lester Prairie’s 9-5 lead.

The Titans collected an additional run at the bottom of the third. Savannah Squires hit a double and advanced to home on a double by Nikaija Young, but the team was soon knocked out by two consecutive outs.

TCU continued to earn modest gains. After knocking out Lester Prairie 1-2-3 at the top of the fourth, Closser scored another run for the Titans off single by Payton Singleton. Both teams ran scoreless in the fifth, but the Titans were down just 9-7.

But at as the game entered the sixth inning, Lester Prairie made tying the game a tougher task for the Titans. The opposing team scored a run to raise their advantage 10-7. But TCU proved they were up for the job.

At the bottom of the sixth, Brooke Blaschko opened with a single, stole second, advanced to third on an error and scored the first run on a single by Closser. But after two consecutive fly outs, the Titans now had to collect at least two more runs to tie up the game while making no mistakes. Payton Singleton hit a single and advanced Closser to second. Closser then stole third while Singleton reached second on an error and swapped with Alexis Hoefs. Isabelle Factor followed up with a single, batting in both runners to tie the game 10-10. Squires doubled to bat in Factor, giving TCU the 11-10 lead.

“Lester Prairie was a good competitor,” said Coach Kelly Jo Closser. “The coaching staff did a great job at defending our ladies at the plate. Molly Closser went four for four at the plate for us. Brooke Blaschko had a big moment for us in the bottom of the 6th with her base running after getting on base with a single and ended up getting to 3rd base. You could feel the momentum starting to swing in our favor after that. The girls played well, but still have things we have to work on, but the girls always seem to respond when we ask them to.”

Molly Closser was the team’s top hitter with four runs scored, four hits and two RBIs over four at bats. Brooke Blaschko produced two runs; Ellaina Novak produced three runs; and Ellaina Novak, Alexis Hoefs, Isabelle Factor, Savannah Squires and Nikaija Young each contributed one.

Novak pitched for all seven innings and threw 80 strikes and four strikeouts over 102 pitches.

Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

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