The Big Nine softball clash between Winona and Northfield showcased two teams leaving it all on the field.
“It’s sad there had to be a loser in the game,” said coach Josten Coleman.
With both squads playing hard and competing to the final out, the Winhawks edged the Raiders in the nine-inning classic by an 8-5 margin in Northfield.
Taking on Winona, Coleman knew it was going to be a challenge to knock off the Winhawks. “Winona is no joke,” he said, as the opponent is ranked inside the top 10 of their class.
Making it even tougher to come out on top would be the absence of standout player and captain in Courtney Graff, who missed the contest due to illness.
Despite that, Northfield pushed Winona to the brink, having a handful of chances to come out on top.
That effort alone, though not resulting in the victory, was a moment to recognize said Coleman.
“I was super proud of our girls,” he said. “We were missing one of our betters hitters and generally our starting pitcher. We just wanted to come out and compete.”
Stepping in to fill the role in the circle, junior Rylee Blandin got the chance to compete against Winona.
Limiting the Winhawks to three runs through four innings, Northfield took to the offensive in bottom of frame.
Answering by plating three runs of their own, the Raiders knotted the game at 3-3.
The fifth inning saw both teams score once to bring the game to four apiece.
Remaining tied, the Raiders had the chance to win with the walk-off in the bottom of the seventh.
Northfield loaded the bases with just a single out to back Winona into a corner.
In the do-or-die scenario, a fly by hit to short left field by the Raiders resulted Northfield attempting to score the walk-off.
A perfect throw cut baserunner Jordyn Naumann short at home plate to force extras.
The Winhawks, scoring a run in the top of the eighth, put the pressure back on Northfield.
“We different scenarios in this game that we don’t see when you are beating by a large margin,” said Coleman.
Getting a runner to second base with two outs, Northfield had to execute at the plate.
In stepped junior Jaimi Triplett.
Smacking the game-tying hit, Triplett came through in the clutch.
“It was very stressful. I felt like there was a lot of my shoulders but I just pushed through,” said Triplett on the hit.
Triplett’s run-scoring hit was the only of the inning for Northfield as the two teams headed to the ninth.
Blandin, still pitching in the contest, tried to dance around a lead off double by the Winhawks.
Getting the runner to third base, Winona used the suicide squeeze to force Northfield to make a play.
The Raiders were just a second late.
Now leading, Winona added two more runs in the inning to take the 8-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
The Winhawks played stout defense in the bottom of the frame to get a one-two-three inning to bring an end to the marathon contest.
“We had chances to win the game but we didn’t make some of the plays and that’s softball,” said Coleman.
Triplett and Leah Enedy each finished with two RBIs in the game while Enedy picked up two hits.
Bladin took the loss, striking out seven, allowing four earned runs.
Northfield dropped to 6-3 in the conference while Winona moved to 9-1.
The Raiders returned to the diamond on May 7, traveling to Eagan and taking a 7-3 loss.
Battling the tough opponents, the stretch did not get any easier for Northfield.
A trip to Mankato West was next for the Raiders Northfield traveled to the Scarlet’s field on May 10.