For the fourth year in a row, the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team was denied a trip to the state Class AA tournament.
The Panthers played one of their best games of the season to end a five-game losing streak to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the playoffs with a 1-0 victory in an elimination game at the Park Rapids Area High School field on Thursday, May 30.
Park Rapids followed by playing one of its worst games of the season as Thief River Falls ended the Panthers' quest for state for the second year in a row with a 10-3 victory in the finals. The Panthers tied their season high with six errors while TRF belted out 12 hits in that game.
That loss ended the season for the No. 2 seed in the North at 24-3. Thief River Falls (the No. 1 seed in the North) will carry a 23-3 record to the state tournament while D-G-F (the No. 1 seed in the South) ended the season at 20-5.
DGF streak ends
D-G-F prevented the Panthers from advancing to the state tournament the last three seasons.
The Rebels defeated Park Rapids in the section playoffs by scores of 2-1 in 2018, 11-3 and 5-2 in 2017, and 4-1 and 2-1 in 2016.
It took a two-hitter from Rilee Michaelson and a solo home run by Kaisa Coborn to prevent the Rebels from extending that streak.
Michaelson allowed only five baserunners on a two-out single in the second inning, an error and a bunt single in the third, and a pair of walks in the sixth.
D-G-F's Mallory Leitner and Kiarra Summers were just as effective by combining on a three-hitter. However, one of those hits proved to be the difference.
The Panthers managed only a one-out single by Michaelson in the second and an error on Tarryn Arola's grounder in the third before Coborn led off the fourth with a solo homer after making a diving catch in foul territory to end the top of the inning.
Park Rapids also threatened in the fifth when Abby Morris doubled and Arola was hit by a pitch. But Morris was thrown out at home on a double steal as the Panthers clung to a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, Coborn reached on a one-out error and advanced to third, but was left stranded.
As it turned out, the Panthers only needed one run to advance.
"It's nice to get that monkey off our backs," said Park Rapids head coach Marion Goeden. "We went into the game with confidence. Despite having lost at DGF earlier in the season, that game was a confidence booster for us. Our defense in this game was near flawless. It was one of the best played games I've been a part of in years."
D-G-F 000 000 0...0 2 2
Park Rapids 000 100 x...1 3 1
Park Rapids hitting: Kinkel (0-3), S. Pachel (0-3), Ka. Coborn (1-3, 1r, 1rbi), K. Pachel (0-3), Michaelson (1-3), Ke. Coborn (0-2), Morris (1-2), Weaver (0-1), Arola (0-1), Bera (0-0). 2B: Morris 1. HR: Ka. Coborn 1. SB: Ke. Coborn 1.
Park Rapids pitching: W-Michaelson (7ip, 0r, 2h, 2bb, 1k).
Errors help TRF
The Panthers went from playing flawless defense to making six errors that helped Thief River Falls advance to state.
Thief River Falls, which eliminated the Panthers with a 6-4 win in last year's section tournament and handed the Panthers an 8-1 loss earlier in this year's tournament, used two errors and Eme Gustafson's two-run single to take a 3-0 lead in the first.
Another error and Haylie Rogalla's RBI single made it 4-0 in the second before the Panthers cut the gap to 4-3 in the third when Natalie Kinkel and Kendra Coborn scored on Kaisa Coborn's RBI double and Kylee Pachel's two-run single.
The Prowlers regained control by scoring four times in the bottom of the inning on Breanna Wienen's RBI double and Rogalla's two-run homer. Two more errors led to the final two runs in the fourth.
Doubles by Kaisa Coborn in the fifth and Michaelson in the sixth were the only other hits for the Panthers. Michaelson went the distance, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits and three walks in six innings.
Alexis Huot, Khloe Lund, Hannah Magnusson, Wienen and Rogalla had two hits apiece for the Prowlers. Alexa Rogalla threw a four-hitter in a complete-game win.
"They are a well-coached team. It seemed in both play-off games we had an error pull us out of our comfort zone. When you're out of your comfort zone, muscles don't work as well for you. Anytime there's an error, your pitcher has to throw more pitches. That may be part of their ability to hit us so well," said Goeden. "It's really hard to win a game when you have six errors and give up five unearned runs. I'd love to play them again."
Park Rapids 003 000 0...3 4 6
Thief River Falls 314 200 x...10 12 4
Park Rapids hitting: Kinkel (0-4, 1r), Ke. Coborn (0-3, 1r), Ka. Coborn (2-3, 1r, 1rbi), K. Pachel (1-3, 2rbi), Michaelson (1-3), S. Pachel (0-3), Morris (0-3), Weaver (0-3, Arola (0-2), Bera (0-0). 2B: Michaelson 1, Ka. Coborn 2. SB: Kinkel 1.
Park Rapids pitching: L-Michaelson (6ip, 10r, 5er, 12h, 3bb, 0k).