by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Warrior Manufacturing shrugged off a 28-0 loss (yes, 28-zip!) and turned around to beat the same team for the championship of the Elk River Women’s Softball League on Wednesday night.
Warrior bounced back to defeat Tootsie’s Tavern, the league regular-season champion, 21-13, on the heels of the unheard-of drubbing that forced a second game in the finals.
“Yeah, but who cares, we came out on top in the end,” said player-manager Ashley Kolles cheerfully after the final game ended at 11:20 p.m.
That was only part of the strange path Warrior (based in St. Michael) took to the title of the seven-team league’s playoffs. Last week, they beat McPete’s in 15 innings and Harry’s Napa Auto in 11 innings, each time after tying the score in the seventh.
‘We were so late they had to make other teams go home,” remarked Kolles. Indeed, two games had to be postponed to this week.
In the upper-bracket semi’s Monday, Warrior faced a team whose number they seem to have, Tootie’s, which was 18-3 in league play but 0-2 against Warrior.
Once again, Warrior prevailed, 5-4. Tootsie’s took a 4-3 lead in the sixth when Nicole Kunkel ripped a long bases-loaded triple. But Warrior threw her out at the plate on second baseman Alyssa Dick’s perfect relay to catcher Becca Schnitzler. That play proved crucial when Warrior pecked away for two go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh and pulled it out.
Tootsie’s (based in Big Lake), dropped to the losers bracket went on a rampage, showing why they were the regular-season champion. Niki Michaels ripped a bases-loaded triple in the first inning to get them started on a 15-0 rout of McPete’s. Then came the 28-0 laugher over Warrior that included three bases-loaded smashes by Kunkel that went for two triples and a homer.
“It’s always mind over matter with us, against these guys,” said Tootsie’s manager Jill Markgraf, after the victory which turned out to be their only one in five games vs. Warrior.
Tootsie’s, in its fourth game of the night, scored their 44th straight run in the first, for a 1-0 lead.
However, Warrior sprang back to life, sparked by Vanhorrick with a two-run double during a five-run first inning, and a bases-loaded triple during a 10-run sixth that included seven singles and three errors.
Warrior, 14-8 in the regular season, has three sets of three sisters, said Kolles, and has been together several years, with three state titles (DD, D, and C) in its resume.
P Kacie McEwen, C Becca Schnitzler, 1B Courtney Brant, 2B Alyssa Dick, 3B Jill Anderson, SS Jen Dahlheimer, LF Cora Brown, LC Ashley Kolles (manager), RC Kris Spaeth, RF Jackie Vanhorrick, also Kerry Zezza, Brianna Dick, Lauren Kessler
P Kris Simonson, C Tina Gleason, 1B Darby Hale, 2B Melissa Vetch, SS Kate Swanson, 3B Megan Anderson, 2B-OF Theresa Seide, LF Nicole Kunkel, LC-SS Jen Middleton, RC Rochelle Moore, RF Niki Michels, LC Sami Sauter …. Manager Jill Markgraf