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Adapted Softball: Thunderbolts bow out with third-place trophy

Senior Bryce Smith holds up the third-place trophy won by the South Washington County Thunderbolts Saturday in the adaptive softball state tournament. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Jack Swendahl of the Thunderbolts makes a running catch at the wall in the outfield to save some runs for the South Washington County in a win against North Suburban. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
South Washington County's and Mathew Jenkins and Tyler Tinucci celebrate the final out in a win over North Suburban in the third-place game Saturday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 4
Senior Tyler Wylie heads for home with another run for the South Washington County Thunderbolts Saturday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 4

It was a head-shaking game for Thunderbolts head coach John Culbertson.

Culbertson would look at the field, look at the scoreboard, and then shake his head.

South Washington County threatened to end the game early several times, but North Suburban kept battling back. Finally it was over, and the South Washington County Thunderbolts had a 22-10 victory and a third-place finish in the 2018 state adapted softball CI Division tournament at Coon Rapids Saturday.

Fittingly it was smiling senior Bryce Smith who finished the North Suburban Cougars off, slamming a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning. He and senior Tyler Wylie had four hits each to power the Thunderbolts.

"It was that yo-yo, where, hey, all of a sudden we're up by 12 runs, and then they get two," said Culbertson. "Or we're up 10 and they get one. You can't get an out. But the fact that we had a brand-new pitcher, new players, so we just had to kind of roll with it and do what we thought."

In many ways the game marked the end of an era for the Thunderbolts. It was the last hurrah for six seniors — Bryce Smith, Nick Jones, Ryan Schmidt, Leah Huntley, Sydney Sexton and Tyler Wylie. Those six have been a huge part of the Thunderbolts winning conference, section titles and state championships in adapted softball, hockey and soccer.

"This was a great game," said Jones. "We pulled through. We had fun, that's all that matters. Last year on the team and I'm going to miss it."

"We all know about Bryce and then Nick and then you see the emotions of these kids that they understand that this is it," said Culbertson. "That's what this sport is about, is making those connections and you're seeing people pretty emotional because they were classmates, now they're teammates and they're friends. So those relationships are hard to see — but you can see right now I'm just watching a whole group of guys that, super-tight, really great friends, who just happen to be pretty good softball players, too."

Freshman leadoff batter Jack Swedahl was 3-for-3 with three runs scored to help South Washington County to a 19-4 victory over South Suburban in four innings in the CI Division quarterfinals. Senior third baseman Tyler Wylie scored three runs for the Thunderbolts.

South Washington County then dropped a tough 9-6 decision to eventual champion North St. Cloud Area in the semifinals Saturdayafternoon. That sent the Thunderbolts to the third-place game against North Suburban.

It was a much sweeter finish for the Thunderbolts than the previous state softball tournament in which the team dropped both games. This time around the Thunderbolts were determined to go home with some hardware.

Smith and South Washington County freshman standout Katie Sexton were named to the all-tournament team.