Braves win opener, finish fourth at state tournament
After starting the season with a 3-9 record, the members of the Menahga fastpitch softball team joked that they were going to the state Class A tournament.
The joke turned out to be on the other teams in Section 6A.
Sweeping a doubleheader from Sebeka on May 4 proved to be the key to getting the season turned around and the Braves to state. Those wins ended up giving Menahga the No. 3 seed for the Section 6A North tournament and a spot opposite No. 1 Hawley in the tournament bracket.
Hawley ended up winning the subsection title with a 4-2 win over Menahga. However, the Braves took advantage of a trip to the Section 6A tournament by avenging regular-season losses to Bertha-Hewitt and Parkers Prairie to qualify for the state Class A tournament. The Braves defeated Bertha-Hewitt 6-1 in the section semifinals and Parkers Prairie 1-0 in the section title game to advance to state for the fourth time in school history.
"We joked around about it (qualifying for state), but I definitely didn't think we'd do it," said junior catcher Jada Melton. "We stepped it up big time. We didn't stop believing in ourselves. We deserve to go to state."
"I knew we had things to work on, but I thought we could do it," said senior shortstop Katie Miller. "Getting to state is something we've wanted since we were third graders. Everything came together."
"A month ago I never thought we could make it," said senior left fielder Emily Skoog. "It all came together. We really wanted it."
"We always joked about going to state," said junior first baseman Amelia Pho. "We were determined."
Entering the state tournament, this year's team wanted to accomplish something the state teams of 1998, 2004 and 2007 couldn't accomplish: win a game at state.
"I'm happy to be going," said junior pitcher Lindsey White. "We want to win at least one game."
"I'm hoping we can get at least one win," said Miller. "I think we have a good shot."
"I think we have a good shot to win at least one game," said Pho. "If we stay focused, play good defense and hit the ball, I think we can do it."
"We're coming in with confidence," said Melton. "We made it this far. We have nothing to lose."
The Braves did fulfill that goal by defeating No. 5-ranked Blooming Prairie 2-1 in eight innings in Thursday's quarterfinal game at Caswell Park in Mankato.
Menahga had its chance at playing for the state title denied with a 4-0 loss to No. 3 Barnum in Thursday night's semifinals. Katrina Newman threw a no-hitter to lead Barnum to the title game.
The Braves had to go extra innings again in Friday's third-place game as No. 6 Badger/Greenbush-Middle River prevailed 6-2 in 11 innings.
No. 4-ranked New Life Academy of Woodbury defeated Barnum 2-0 in Friday's title game. No. 2-ranked New Ulm Cathedral defeated No. 1 Cherry/Cotton 4-1 for the consolation title.
Menahga, which scored four runs on nine hits while allowing 11 runs on 27 hits in the three tournament games, ended the season with an 11-16 record.
Braves win in extra inning
Menahga won its first state tournament game in dramatic fashion by upsetting the state's No. 5-ranked team.
Blooming Prairie took a 1-0 lead in the first when Tricia DeBoer led off with a bunt single, moved up on a sacrifice bunt, stole third and scored on a throwing error.
The Braves responded in the bottom of the inning to tie the game when Katie Miller was hit by a pitch, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth when Tarah Cleveland singled with one out, advanced to second on Katie Miller's sacrifice bunt and scored the game-winner on Joy Haataja's single up the middle.
Pho's two-out single in the first and Jenny Skoog's lead-off single in the fourth were the only other hits for Menahga.
White went the distance, allowing one unearned run on five hits with six strikeouts.
Newman throws no-hitter
Newman struck out nine and allowed only two baserunners in leading Barnum to the championship game.
Jenny Skoog walked in the second and Cleveland walked in the third to account for Menahga's only baserunners. Newman retired the final 13 batters she faced.
Barnum scored three runs in the second on a single by Katie Myhre, bunt singles by Jenna Shanda and Claire Rodgers, two wild pitches and Paige Rilea's RBI single.
Barnum scored the game's final run in the fifth on an error, Katie Myhre's double and Shanda's RBI grounder.
White allowed nine hits and three earned runs in another complete-game effort.
Badger prevails in 11
Badger had plenty of opportunities to produce the winning run before finally delivering in the 11th inning.
Menahga took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Katie Miller walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by White and scored on a throwing error.
Badger tied the game in the second on a double by Rushelle Flaten, a single by Mikaela Janicke and an error.
In the sixth, a walk to Haley Price and Flaten's ground-rule double gave Badger a 2-1 lead.
Menahga forced extra innings by tying the game in the bottom of the seventh. White walked, moved to second on Pho's sacrifice bunt and scored on Melton's two-out single.
Badger left a runner on third in the eighth, left runners on second and third in the ninth, and couldn't score with runners on second and third with one out in the 10th.
Badger finally broke through in the 11th by scoring four runs on five hits. Alissa Olson's two-run single, Janna Hall's RBI bunt single and a wild pitch produced the game-winning runs. Badger finished with 13 hits, but stranded 13 runners on base in the game.
Menahga was held to only five hits. Melton's single in the fifth broke up a no-hitter. Katie Miller singled in the eighth, Jenny Skoog singled in the 10th and Katie Miller singled in the 11th for the Braves' other hits.
White again went the distance, allowing 13 hits and four walks while striking out 10.