Otters rally, edge Panthers for title
After tying the school record for wins in a season to advance to the Section 8AA championship game, the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team was looking to advance to the state Class AA tournament for only the second time in school history.
In order to accomplish that goal, the Panthers had to defeat Fergus Falls twice at Frazee Thursday.
The Panthers were in position to force a deciding game by jumping out to an early 5-2 lead. But Fergus Falls rallied for a 7-5 victory to claim the section title.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Olivia Vaadeland walked with two outs and scored on Ashley Domino's RBI single.
After Fergus Falls used an error, two walks and a single to claim a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning, the Panthers capitalized on two errors to score four runs.
Caitlan Isaacson led off with a single and McKenna Brand walked with two outs. Alyssa Carlson's RBI single tied the game before Anna Grimes reached on an error. Vaadeland's bases-loaded walk gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead before Carlson and Grimes scored when Domino's grounder to short off reliever Sadie Knudson was misplayed.
Facing a 5-2 deficit, Knudson shut down the Panthers the rest of the game. Knudson gave up a one-out single to Carlson in the fourth, a one-out single to Bailee Jerger and two-out walk to Isaacson in the fifth, and a one-out single to Lexi Burlingame in the seventh. Carlson and Vaadeland also reached on errors in the sixth, but were left stranded on base.
Meanwhile, the Otters chipped away at the deficit.
Laura Guastad tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the second and Kayla Norman singled and scored in the third to make it 5-4.
A three-run fifth inning gave Fergus Falls a 7-5 lead. Singles by Sydney Schultz, Gabby Stocks and May Swiontek were the key hits in that inning.
Fergus Falls held on for the win as Stocks went 3 for 3 and Knudson struck out eight batters. The Otters will carry a 13-8 record to their first appearance at the state tournament.
Carlson had two hits to lead the Panthers' six-hit attack. Jerger went the distance, allowing five earned runs on eight hits.
The Panthers finished with a 19-7 overall record, which matched the school record for wins in a season set by the 2003 team that went 19-4.