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Woodbury’s stellar season ends in section final

Senior second baseman Jordyn Yourczek scoops up a ground ball and flips it to first to record an out in Woodbury’s 13-1 win over Hill-Murray on May 28 at McKnight Field. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

Sophomore Riley Lonetti played the hero for Woodbury.

Lonetti provided a walk-off double to right center to knock in Madi Yochum for the game-winning run as the Royals knocked off Stillwater 4-3 to advance to the 4AAA section final last week.

Woodbury hurlers Caitlin Balsimo and Ashley Mickschl were tremendous in the circle, scattering six hits to hold down the Stillwater offense.

Still, the Royals trailed 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh. And with the season on the line, Mickschl, a freshman, extended the campaign with a game-tying home run, setting the stage for Lonetti to win it in the eighth.

Mickschl and junior pitcher Lauren Garay combined to toss a two-hitter earlier on Wednesday in a 13-1 win over Hill-Murray in five innings to advance to the rematch with Stillwater -- who sent the Royals into the lower bracket by beating Woodbury in the opening round of the sectional.

The Royals bats jumped on Hill-Murray early and often. The offense was led by Lonetti, who knocked in three runs on two hits, and senior Jordyn Yourczek, who finished with two hits and two runs batted in.

Woodbury’s season ended in the sectional final when it fell 7-0 to top-seeded North St. Paul, but the result didn’t mask an otherwise outstanding campaign for the Royals.

Woodbury went 19-7 on the season -- a stark contrast from the five-win campaign it achieved just two years ago.

“The main ingredient is the kids,” Royals coach Bob Samson said. “ They all bring good skills from various summer teams and then we get to mix and match and make up a high school team that works hard and competes hard and has fun together and you wind up with a really successful season.”

Samson credited good pitching, hitting and leadership for much of the team’s success.

Woodbury scored 10-plus runs in seven games this season, something Samson called “unheard of” in fastpitch softball.

A large generator of that offense was Yourczek. Yourczek hit north of .450 from the plate this season and was one of three seniors who led the Royals’ charge, alongside Balsimo and Tori Erickson.

“[They] will definitely be missed,” Samson said.

Woodbury will return 16 players from this year’s sectional runner-up, including Mickschl, who finished her freshman campaign with 12 wins in the pitching circle.

With a plethora of talent returning from a team that accomplished so much in 2014, there’s reason to be optimistic in Woodbury.

“We are more than just a little bit excited about the future of WHS fastpitch softball,” Samson said.