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Menahga, Otter Tail Central clubs headed into state softball tournament

Class A Quarterfinals

Thursday's Games

Caswell Park-Mankato

(Section 2) New Ulm Cathedral (22-3) vs. (Section 5) Barnum (23-2) at 11 a.m. -- The Greyhounds of New Ulm Cathedral are making their 11th tournament appearance, having won titles in 1993-95, 2003, 2005 and 2007. This year the Greyhounds scored 164 runs on 221 hits and they have a team batting average of .325. Sophomore Amy Eckstein bats .493 for New Ulm Cathedral and had 27 RBI on 34 hits. Junior pitcher Kasey Bode, who went 17-2 on the mound this season, struck out 136 and has an ERA of 1.18. The Greyhounds played Wabasso twice, winning both games 3-1 and 2-1. Bob Mertz has 31 years of coaching experience and a record of 644-112 (.852). The Bombers of Barnum are making their seventh tournament appearance. They outscored their opponents 197-43 this season and bat .360 as a team. Senior pitcher Katrina Newman compiled a season record of 15-1 on the mound and threw 166 strikeouts in 95 innings. Her ERA is 0.15 and she belted a team-high seven home runs and 31 RBI. Junior Jessica Newman has the best batting average of .560 with 28 RBI. One of the Bombers losses (3-1) was by Cherry/Cotton.

(Section 1) Blooming Prairie (23-2) vs. (Section 6) Menahga (10-14) at 11 a.m. -- The Awesome Blossoms of Blooming Prairie are making their first tournament appearance. Junior Tayla Jones leads the offense with 27 RBI, three home runs and a .490 batting average. Junior pitcher Erica Manske struck out 185 batters 136 innings and has a 1.02 ERA. The Awesome Blossoms outscored opponents 197-43 this season, but did not play any other qualifiers, and the team batting average is .360. The Braves of Menahga are making their fourth tournament appearance. The Braves struggled offensively, trailing opponents this season in runs scored and team batting average. Junior pitcher Lindsey White led the team with a .323 batting average and struck out 155 in 141 innings for an ERA of 1.29. Junior Amelia Pho hit the team's solo home run and also drove in a team-leading 11 runs along with senior Megan Miller. The Braves dropped a 1-0 game against Cherry/Cotton in mid-April.

(Section 7) Cherry/Cotton (23-2) vs. (Section 8) Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (22-3) at 1 p.m. -- The Tigers of Cherry/Cotton are not only making their first state softball tournament appearance, but it is the first time the girls from either school have qualified for any state tournament. They batted .428 as a team this year and outscored their opponents 256-49. The team has belted seven home runs, led by junior Sara Sauter with a pair and a team-leading batting average of .494 that she shares with sophomore Taylor Sauter. Sara has a 9-1 pitching record and 1.537 ERA as well. Sophomore Shaina Novak also has a 9-1 record, 106 strikeouts, and a 1.471 ERA. Sophomore Tanner Ersbo drove in 45 runs for the Tigers, who were 1-0 and 3-1 victors over Menahga and Barnum, respectively. The Gators of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River are making their fourth appearance. They bat .352 as a team and outscored opponents 254-51. Junior Haley Price leads the Gators with a .494 batting average that includes one home run and 35 RBI. Senior Rushelle Flaten and junior Erin Efta share most of the mound duties. Flaten is 9-1 and has a 1.96 ERA. Efta is 11-1 and has a 1.82 ERA. The Gators have not played any other tournament qualifiers. If you are looking for something to do in early October, you might consider the annual Goose Festival in Middle River.

(Section 4) New Life Academy of Woodbury (19-1) vs. (Section 3) Wabasso (15-9) at 1 p.m. -- The two-time defending champions from New Life Academy of Woodbury are making their fifth consecutive and overall appearance. The Eagles allowed only 19 runs all season while scoring 157 of their own. They had 110 RBI on 175 hits. Junior pitcher Rebekah Schmidt is a five-year starter and went 18-1 this season. She fired 251 strikeouts over 116 innings this year and her ERA is 0.18. Schmidt also smashed six home runs, drove in a team-high 22 runs, and bats .421.Eighth-grader Amanda Heidemann has a team-high .517 batting average, one point better than junior teammate Katie Stodolka. The Eagles did not play any other tournament qualifiers. The Wabasso Rabbits return for their third consecutive and sixth overall appearance. They finished fifth last year and won one previous title in 1999. This year's team compiled a .336 batting average while holding opponents to a .226 batting average and outscoring them 180-114. The team has belted 13 home runs, including seven by junior Alonna Baune who has a team-leading 33 RBI also. Senior Morgan Samyn has best batting average of .429. Ninth-grader Kimberly Frank belted three homers, has a team-high 39 hits, and an average of .411. Ninth-grader Desi Kramer handles most of the pitching duty and has 70 strikeouts and a 2.64 ERA. The Rabbits lost two of their games to New Ulm Cathedral 3-1 and 2-1.

Class AA Quarterfinals

Thursday's Games

Caswell Park-Mankato

(Section 4) St. Anthony Village (20-3) vs. (Section 6) Rocori, Cold Spring (19-4) at 9 a.m. -- The Huskies of St. Anthony Village are making their fourth tournament appearance. They have 212 hits while holding their opponents to 98. Their team batting average is .346 and their team ERA is 0.84. Sophomore Becca Bates has the highest batting average of .485, including a team-high 28 RBI. She also finished 9-3 on the mound with 74 innings pitched, 84 strikeouts and a 0.66 ERA. Senior Jyll Tusa is 10-0 on the mound and also has a hot bat, hitting .367 with 25 RBI. Her 65 innings pitched resulted in 57 strikeouts and a 1.08 ERA. The Spartans of Rocori are making their sixth appearance. Their advantage over opponents in runs scored is 193-47, in hits 259-112, in team batting average .376 to .175, in home runs 9-2, and in stolen bases 88-4. The team provided no individual statistics.

(Section 5) Park Center, Brooklyn Park (19-6) vs. (Section 1) Zumbrota-Mazeppa (22-2) at 9 a.m. -- The Pirates of Park Center are making their 11th tournament appearance and still searching for their first state title. The team provided no team or individual statistics. The Cougars of Zumbrota-Mazeppa are making only their second appearance. This year they have a .341 team batting average and scored 183 runs. Conversely, opponents only hit .164 for 41 runs. Sophomore pitcher Megan Nelson is undefeated (17-0) so far this season, fanning 149 over 104 innings and finishing with a .606 ERA. Nelson also is the second leading hitter with a .444 average. Junior Jamie St. Marie led the Cougars with both her .507 batting average and 23 RBI. Ninth-grader Amber Jentsch provided some power, knocking out two of the team's four home runs this season and hitting for .315 overall.

(Section 8) Otter Tail Central (24-1) vs. (Section 2) Mankato East (15-8) at 1 p.m. --The Bulldogs of Otter Tail Central, which is a co-op between Battle Lake, Henning and Underwood, are making their third consecutive and overall appearance. They finished last year. This season the Bulldogs scored 190 runs to their opponents' 42 and a team batting average of .370. Junior Gabby Brendefur has the team-high batting average of .453, including 23 RBI. Junior Lindsay Nelson hit .445 and 21 RBI. Senior Carley Nelson hit .419 and went undefeated (13-0) on the mound with 104 strikeouts in 87 innings and a 0.56 ERA. Junior Carmen Malmstrom also pitches (11-1) and has 76 strikeouts in 85 innings and a 1.21 ERA. The Cougars of Mankato East are making their 14th appearance and seek a fifth title to add to their championships in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991. The team scored 107 runs while holding opponents to 42 and has a slight edge in team batting average. Junior catcher EJ Scharmer slugged three of the team's four home runs and knocked in a team-high 16 RBI with her .347 batting average. Senior Christa Wolner leads the team with her .373 batting average and drove in 13 runs. Sophomore Nicole Ries is the primary hurler (14-8) and struck out 136 in 138 innings and has a 0.91 ERA. At one point in the season the Cougars were 5-7, but have won their last 10 in a row.

(Section 7) Hermantown (23-4) vs. (Section 3) Pipestone Area (20-1) at 1 p.m. -- The Hawks of Hermantown are back to defend their title in their thirds consecutive and 17th overall appearance. In addition to last year's title, Hermantown also won in 1991 and 2002. The Hawks scored 184 runs this season and batted .340. The pitching staff is stingy, recording 16 shutouts and giving up only 23 runs all season. Senior Megan Mullen is the ace (19-3), striking out 283 hitters in 200 innings with a 0.39 ERA. Heir apparent Katie Thun, a ninth-grader, is 4-1 and struck out 48 in just 29 innings for a 0.97 ERA. Mullen also led the team with 39 RBI, including two home runs, for a .422 average. Senior catcher Ellen Folman also hit two round-trippers, drove in 25 runs and hit .419. Senior Julia Gilbert has a team-high 48 hits and .552 batting average. The Arrows of Pipestone Area, last year's third-place finisher, are making their fifth consecutive and sixth overall appearance. The Arrows won one previous championship in 2007 and were runners-up in 2008. With a team ERA of a mere 0.31, this quarterfinal may become a pitcher's duel. Senior Bailey Bouman compiled a 20-1 record on the mound this year, throwing 190 strikeouts in 123 innings with a 0.23 ERA. She also hit .446 and has two home runs. Four different Arrows have multiple homers (the team slugged 11 total), including senior Jesse Gergen with three, and she also has both the team-high batting average of .493 and team-high 27 RBI.

The Schedule

Following Thursday's quarterfinal games, all Class AAA semifinals (both championship and consolation) are scheduled for either 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. All Class AA semifinals will be played at 3 p.m. or 7 p.m., and all Class A semifinals will be played at 5 p.m. or 7 p.m.

The consolation championships for all three classes will be played at 9 a.m. on Friday, followed by all third-place games at 11 a.m. The Class A championship will begin at 1:30 p.m. The Class AA title game will start at 2 p.m., and the Class AAA title game will begin at 1 p.m.