Northfield Softball Class 3A State Champions
The Northfield Raiders jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first inning and cruised to a 8-3 win over the Mankato West Scarlets today for the Class 3A State High School Softball Championship. It was the fourth year in a row a Big Nine Conference team stood at the pinnacle of the sport in the state. Last year fellow Rice County school Faribault was the champion. The year before that Winona and the year before that Mankato West.
Northfield had a 7-0 lead going into the bottom of the second inning. Raiders sophomore pitcher Brynn Hostettler has been very good all year in the pitching circle. She had a perfect game after three innings with 5 strikeouts of the 9 batters faced. Hostettler finished by allowing two hits to a very good Scarlets lineup and finished the game with her 10th strikeout. She had one walk and a hit batsman that both scored in the hiccup 4th inning before she retired the final 11 batters faced.
After the game Hostettler told KDHL/POWER 96 she felt more focused and conceded it was probably because the opponent was not only the Big Nine Conference Champions but beat her team earlier this spring.
To hold the Scarlets to 2 hits is amazing. The top seed and #1 rated team all season Mankato West clobbered their first and second opponents in the tournament. 16-3 against Visitation in their first game which ended after five innings. In the semi-finals Mankato West bested Cloquet 12-2 in 6 innings.
The #2 seed and #3 ranked Raiders had a tougher road to the title game. Defeating Detroit Lakes 10-0 in 6 innings before coming from behind to beat Becker 8-2.
Mankato West Heach Coach Don Krusemark went with junior Kayla Grunst to start the game. She lasted 8 batters. Northfield sophomore Payton Fox started the game with a full count walk. Sophomore Mikaela Girard stroked a 0-2 single. On the play Fox was thrown out at third base. Senior Jillian Noel hit a single followed by junior Anne Fossum hitting a single on the first pitch for an RBI. Sophomore Chloe Rozga jumped on the first pitch for another single to load the bases. Senior Caroline Pritchard hit an RBI single that loaded the bases. Fossum was forced out at home on a fielder's choice. Raiders #8 batter sophomore Avery Valek collected a bases loaded walk and the day was over for Grunst.
Left handed pitcher Lauryn Douglas then entered the game in a very tough spot with the bases loaded and the team already behind 4-0. Junior Emma Johnson greeted Douglas with a 1-2 count RBI single before a ground out ended the top half of the first inning.
Northfield would add two more runs in the second inning. Following a ground out Noel collected her second hit on a 2-1 count. Fossum hit a grounder and traded places with Noel in the fielder's choice for the second out. Rozga hit a fly ball to the outfield that the right fielder dove to attempt to catch running in on the ball and couldn't complete the play. Pritchard worked the count full before hammering a single to score two runs putting Northfield up 7-0.
In the bottom of the 4th inning Mankato West mounted their only threat. Junior Madi Mueller walked to start the inning. Freshman Abbi Stierlin jumped on the first pitch for a single. Following a strikeout looking for the first out senior Kenzi Grunst was hit by a pitch with a 1-2 count. Sophomore Bri Stoltzman took an 0-2 pitch up the middle scoring two runs. Following a fielder's choice Douglas hit a fly ball to left scoring Kenzi Grunst to make it 7-3.
The Raiders would add a run in the sixth inning when Girard led started the inning with a single. She eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by cleanup hitter Fossum.
Hostettler finished the game throwing 103 pitches, 68 for strikes and the tournament allowing a total of 7 hits while striking out 38 batters.
Since the state expanded the classes to four in 2016 the Big Nine has bee the Class 3A title holder.
Since the Girls Softball State Tournament started in 1977 with one class, expanded to two classes in 1979, three classes in 2000 and 4 classes in 2015 the Big Nine Conference has had 12 state championships.
It's the Northfield Raiders first state title in any girls team sport in their first trip to the State Softball Tournament.
The Raiders will be bumped up to Class 4A next season, but with Hostettler in the circle and good youngsters throughout the program they certainly have reason to believe they can get back next season. Right now even Hostettler told us after the awarding of the trophy and individual medals the fact they were State Champions, "Doesn't seem real yet."