By Matthew Daivs
Perspective changed quickly for Totino-Grace’s softball team in the wake of a state softball semifinal loss to state champion Winona.
They had a tough bus ride back to their hotel in Mankato June 8 with one last game, for third place, in 16 hours.
“But when we got back to the hotel and ate dinner, we forgot about the game and just had a fun last night as a team,” senior second base player Madee Brunn said. “On the day of the third place game, it hit us that is was our last game and we wanted to go out on a win, even if it wasn’t the championship game.”
Sophomore third base player Brianna Glynn stepped up at the plate with 2-3 hitting and two RBI as the No. 2 seed Eagles (23-3) pounded top-seeded Mankato West 8-1 June 9 at Mankato’s Caswell Park for the third-place trophy. Glynn’s two RBI in the third sparked a four-run inning as the Eagles pulled away.
“They responded real well,” Eagles coach Mike Sullwood said. “We hit the ball and made great plays in the field in the third-place game.”
Eagles senior pitcher Erin Poepping finished strong with seven strikeouts and a complete game victory. Poepping also helped at the plate as she scored the Eagles’ first run in the opening inning on a sac fly by Marie Schupanitz. Poepping went 1-3 with a RBI.
Mankato West (22-5) scored its only run unearned in the first inning for a 1-0 lead after loading the bases, but the Eagles went ahead to stay in the second, 3-1, as Poepping and Lauren Scheneman drove in runs.
“I was a little worried in the first inning,” Sullwood said.
Totino-Grace added four runs it lead in the third inning with a RBI by Alexandra Radotich, a Schupanitz run on a Mankato West error and the two RBI from Glynn.
Madely Anderson also scored an unearned run, her second of the game, for the Eagles in the sixth to pad the lead. The Scarlets made three errors and gave up eight runs on eight hits.
Totino-Grace rebounded from its 5-0 loss to No. 3 seed and champion Winona (23-3) June 8. The Winhawks went on to beat No. 4 seed Hermantown (20-4) 9-2 June 9.
Against Winona, the Eagles and Winhawks stayed knotted 0-0 through the first three innings and then 1-0 Winhawks through the four innings. Poepping, who struck out four batters, gave up her only run of the day in the fourth on a RBI single by Lauryn Hamernik.
Winona caused more trouble in the fifth as the Eagles surrendered four unearned runs on five hits. The Eagles retired the first two batters, but the Winhawks bounced back with their bats.
Totino-Grace mustered one hit in the loss, suffering its only shutout of the season. Glynn singled for that lone hit to lead off the fifth. A strikeout by Winona pitcher Ashton Hoeppner followed by two Eagles’ fly-outs ended a chance for a quick comeback.
“She threw the pitches that she wanted,” Sullwood said.
Hoeppner dominated with 13 strikeouts, including three in the final two innings. In their other remaining chances, the Eagles grounded out twice, and Scheneman came short of first base on a bunt.
“We didn’t play a very good game both defensively and offensively and when that happens it is hard to find a way to win and we couldn’t do that this game,” Brunn said.
Totino-Grace had come into the game off a tight quarterfinal battle with Big Lake (15-12) earlier in the day June 8. The Eagles pulled out the win 6-5 with a three-run fifth inning. Ella Eibensteiner put the Eagles ahead to stay with a two-run home run. Schupanitz got the momentum going with a RBI double to tie the game 4-4.
Totino-Grace had been there many times before in close games this season. It was among the many success for an Eagles team posted the program’s best finish in 13 years despite starting the season unranked.
“We knew we had something [special],” Sullwood said.