The stage is set: Six area softball teams will play for a trip to state

·3 min read

Jun. 10—Section champions will be crowned around the state on Thursday and southeastern Minnesota has six teams vying for championships. As many as four teams from the area could make it to the state tournaments, which are set for next Tuesday and Wednesday in North Mankato.

Let's break down all the action.

SECTION 1A

Who: Wabasha-Kellogg (13-11) vs. W-E-M (19-3)

Where: Todd Park North, Austin

When: Thursday, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., if necessary

The scoop: Wabasha-Kellogg was three outs away from beating W-E-M in the Section 1A Final Four on Tuesday, but W-E-M rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to beat the Falcons 5-4. Wabasha-Kellogg bounced back and knocked off Mabel-Canton 11-8 in an elimination game to advance to the Section 1A championship game where it'll face W-E-M again. The Falcons will need to beat the Buccaneers twice to punch their ticket to the state tournament. W-K senior Julia Schmoker has been a beast all year long both at the plate and in the circle. W-K will lean on her strong, capable shoulders.

SECTION 4A

Who: Randolph (23-0) vs. Faribault Bethlehem Academy (12-10)

Where: Randolph High School

When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., if necessary

The scoop: Randolph has been on an epic roll and the Rockets are 23-0. They can taste a trip to state. Megan Erickson is the best power hitter in Randolph's history and Morgyn Otte might be the best pitcher in school history. The star duo just has to lead Randolph to one win over Bethlehem Academy (in two tries) to clinch their state bid. Bethlehem Academy entered the Section 4A tournament as the sixth seed and it has won four close games. This could be where the Cinderella run comes to an end.

SECTION 1AA

Who: St. Charles (21-3) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (19-4)

Where: Todd Park North, Austin

When: Thursday, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., if necessary.

The scoop: St. Charles pulled off an epic comeback and scored three runs in the final two innings to knock off Zumbrota-Mazeppa 3-2 on Tuesday in the section semifinal. Sophomore pitcher Brenna Koeppel was tremendous, racking up 10 strikeouts and only making one mistake all game long. Grace Buringa hit the game-tying double in the seventh and Makadyn Gust delivered the go-ahead RBI double one batter later. But beating Z-M one more time will not be easy. Seniors die hard and Avery Steffen is one of the best softball players to ever don the Z-M uniform. Junior catcher Sydney Higley has hammered two home runs off St. Charles pitching this year. The Cougars are older than St. Charles and they've played in plenty of big games. St. Charles looks like a team that could dominate Section 1AA for the next few years with all its young talent. Z-M has been the cream of the crop of Section 1AA for some time. This will be a heavyweight showdown.

SECTION 1AAA

Who: Winona (18-5) vs. Kasson-Mantorville (15-8)

Where: Todd Park North, Austin

When: Thursday, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. if necessary.

The scoop: Winona handled Kasson-Mantorville 6-0 on Tuesday and it'll enter Thursday rested and ready to go. The Winhawks will need just one more win to make it to the state tournament. Kasson-Mantorville licked its wounds after the loss to Winona and bounced back with a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Jordan to stay alive. Catiera Thome had the game-tying RBI and pinch-runner Kyleigh Fate stole home. But now they'll face the daunting task of trying to beat Winona twice, and the Winhawks' pitching staff has allowed just one run throughout the entire tournament. Ace Makayla Steffes has a tiny 1.16 ERA this season with 143 punchouts, and the Winona offense is loaded with five players that hit over .400 and two (Grace Fricke and Steffes) who hit over .500.

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