Softball: Wolfpack rallies to nip Raptors in the 10th
COTTAGE GROVE—After 10 innings of a fierce back-and-forth battle, Park coach Bob Loshek had had enough, and dialed up the squeeze play.
Loshek sent star shortstop Delaney Young barreling in from third base and Riley Perryman made it work at the plate with a perfectly executed bunt as the host Wolfpack edged visiting East Ridge 5-4 in a terrific battle Thursday.
"Every single day in practice coach stresses bunt defense," said Perryman. "He knows it's a small part of the game but he knows it comes up big. And I'm just glad he gave me the opportunity to finally get it down.
"I was excited because I knew Delaney was going to get a good lead," Perryman said. "We practice it a lot in practice. And I'm just glad I could get it down. ... We read each other like the back of a hand. I knew when I got it down she was going to be at home safely."
It wasn't the prettiest of games. Both teams made costly errors in the field and on the basepaths, but it was a hard-fought gritty battle between these two intense rivals. Both teams had several chances to win it before the drama in the bottom of the 10th inning eventually went Park's way.
Park (21-1) advances in the Section 3AAA championship bracket. The third-ranked and top-seeded Wolfpack will play sixth-ranked and second-seeded Eastview (17-4) Tuesday at Richfield Middle School, starting at 3 p.m. The winner advances to the section finals, while the loser must battle back through the consolation bracket. Eastview dropped Hastings 3-0 Thursday to improve to 2-0 in section play.
Fourth-seeded East Ridge drops into consolation play and will meet seventh-seeded Eagan, who defeated Henry Sibley 5-1 Thursday. That game will be played Friday at Richfield Middle School starting at 3 p.m.
"They've done a good job of stepping up," said East Ridge coach Afton Murray of the Raptors. "I think that unfortunately there still are some things we can clean up.
"I think we're a little bit disappointed with the outcome today," Murray continued. "But they competed and that's what we ask them to do every day. Compete every single pitch and they did that today."
Young led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and Madi Meduna walked, Heather Degler advanced the runners to second and third with a ground out to the pitcher. That brought Perryman to the plate, fresh off some heroics in the outfield where she had earlier made a game-saving throw to the plate.
Riley tore into a pitch and sent it to short right field as Young barreled home with the game-winning run.
"East Ridge played a heck of a game," said Park junior catcher Saren Croker. "They were really ready to compete. Every time they scored, we were able to answer back so that's why I'm really proud of my team. And we executed on defense when we needed to. They got their hits but we were not fazed. We were able to come back every half inning and score."
Indeed, it was a tense, back-and-forth game for two-and-a-half hours. Park grabbed an early 1-0 lead, but East Ridge scored two in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. Park retook the lead with two runs in the sixth.
"Both teams competed," said Park coach Loshek. "That's exactly what we figured we were going to get out of East Ridge. We competed with them over in Bielenberg early in the year, they competed and played hard at our field two weeks ago. We came out on top, it was a little bit not like this one. But it was still a battle. Anytime you play East Ridge it's going to be a battle.
"They're well coaches and they have some great players, some athletes over there that they're going to battle and that's exactly what we did," Loshek continued. "It was a little sloppy on both sides but you're going to get that. The ground is rock hard because we haven't' had any rain and its section play. These are high school kids, they're not college, they've not pros. ... We luckily pulled it out because it could have gone either way. We had the winning run 60 feet away a couple times. They had the go-ahead run 60 feet away. They scored the go-ahead run and we battled back."
But the Raptors tied it at 3-all in the eighth, then grabbed a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th.