Tiger softball team’s big day gets dampened

MARSHALL – A dominant 12-3 win over Yellow Medicine East briefly brightened a dreary day for the Marshall softball team to open play in the Section 3AA-North tournament. But as the rains picked up and darkness fell, a floodgate of miscues overcame Marshall in its second-round game against Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta.

Marshall led Morris Area 4-3 through four innings, but an eight-run fifth inning gave Morris Area a commanding lead on its way to a 20-5 victory Tuesday night at the Marshall Softball Complex.

The second seed in the sub-section, Marshall came unraveled in the final three innings. No. 3 seed Morris Area scored 17 runs over that span thanks to 10 walks, three hit batters, four errors and six hits.

If the big swing in momentum hadn’t dampened Marshall’s spirits, a steady rain did.

“We made a few mistakes on defense. It was a slop game and a poor performance,” Marshall head coach Jack Houseman said. “Then we got down and started to get impatient at the plate, but there’s no excuse. Both teams had to stand out there in the rain for two hours.”

Marshall (12-9 overall) is still alive in the tournament, as the Tigers will face Fairmont at 11 a.m. Saturday in Marshall. Morris Area (12-7) advances to play the South sub-section’s top seed, Pipestone Area, Saturday in Marshall.

Pitching issues arose early for Marshall against Morris Area. Marshall had to wait a couple of hours between its first-round game and second-round game as Morris Area was busy dispatching of Benson/Hancock 10-0 in its opening-round contest. Marshall starter Callie Graff looked rusty coming out against Morris Area, giving up two walks to start the game and also throwing a pair of wild pitchers, one of which allowed a runner to score. But Graff got out of the inning limiting the damage to two runs.

Marshall responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the first, getting back-to-back doubles by Miranda Fischer and Brooke Louwagie. Marshall later scored three runs in the third inning as the top three batters in the order all reached base and scored to give their team a 4-3 lead.

Morris Area added a run in the fourth without recording a hit. Graff walked four batters in the inning. For the next inning, Houseman turned to Fischer to take the circle. But Fischer struggled with her control as well and walked six batters in the fifth as Morris Area scored eight runs to take control of the game.

“(Graff) struggled a little bit in the first game and then struggled a little bit in the second one and it’s a guessing game whether to bring (Fischer) in or not,” Houseman said. “But we still have to throw strikes. The other team has to play in the same weather that you are.”

The rain was lighter for Marshall’s first-round contest against YME and the Tigers had very few issues at the plate or in the circle. Marshall pounded 15 hits in the 12-3 win and Graff and Fischer combined to allow just two hits. Fischer worked the final 3 1/3 innings and gave up one hit, no walks and hit one batter while striking out four.

The Tigers broke open the game early on offense. After scoring one run in the first, Marshall had seven of its first eight batters reach base in the bottom of the second on its way to a four-run inning. Six of the batters reached with singles.

Marshall sealed the game in the fourth, when its first five batters all reached base and scored.

Graff finished the game 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Louwagie had three hits, including a double, and knocked in two runs. Fischer, Sadie Zahrbock and Katie Kaiser each added two hits for the Tigers.

YME starting pitcher Allie Trudel has played varsity softball for the Sting for five years and has put together a solid career, but she couldn’t cool off Marshall’s bats Tuesday.

“They hit the ball so well,” YME head coach Jen Sneller, whose team finishes the year 4-12. “It didn’t matter where the ball was placed – inside, outside, low, high – they just saw it well and they utilized their skill as much as they could. It didn’t matter where Allie placed it, they just picked it up and carried it out to the grass.”

The loss to the Tigers put a close to Sneller’s first year leading the Sting. She said the leadership of Trudel and seniors Nena McCalla, Danie Roden and Cassie Struffert helped her greatly while working with what is a fairly young squad.

“The seniors, they led,” Sneller said. “They did everything we asked them to do: they were vocal, they did everything we asked of them in practice, they were hustling, always talking. I couldn’t ask for four better girls.”