by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Katelyn Kemmetmueller has been a force with her bat and arm all season. She’s less known for base-stealing.
The Rogers sophomore contributed in all three fashions to help the Royals edge Irondale 3-2 in eight innings on Friday in a Section 5AAA elimination game at home. They’ll resume playoffs Tuesday at Maple Grove.
With the score 2-2 and two outs in the eighth, Kemmetmueller sliced a single down the right field line. With Elli Anderson, a good hitter, coming up, it was an ideal place to steal a base.
“Kate’s got the speed,” said coach Jerry Bruns, “but I get a little nervous about (sending her). The last thing you want is one of your starting pitchers with an ankle injury (from sliding). I’d say she’s had about five or six steals this year.”
Said Kemmetmueller: “I knew he’d send me. He’s aggressive.”
She got the sign, took off and was safe at second on a close play. The baseman bobbled the ball, she said.
That left it up to Anderson, who leaned into an outside fastball from reliever Maggie Schley and lined a single over the infield to right.
The fielder, playing shallow, had a play at the plate and made a good throw, but Kemmetmueller eluded the tag with a back-door slide, scraping the plate with her hand. Game over.
“It went right at the right fielder,” said Anderson, “and I thought, Omigosh, I’ve got to make sure she doesn’t throw me out at first. When I turned around, Kate was already sliding home.”
The sophomore third baseman went 3-for-4 and Kemmetmueller was 2-for-4.
Kemmetmueller got the win with a scoreless seventh in relief, with two strikeouts Royal starter Melea Bruns gave up nine hits and three walks, but only two runs (unearned) in seven innings, striking out six, then changed places with Kemmetmueller at shortstop after a leadoff single in the eighth.
“Kate had pitched two games into days. We needed seven from Melea, and she gave us seven,” said Jerry Bruns, her father and coach.
Rogers had five hits in the first inning off McKenzie Sweeley including RBI singles by Emily Hanford and Kaitlynn Lloyd but left the bases full. Sweeley blanked the Royals the next five innings. Rogers had runners at second and third with one out in the fifth but Sweeley stranded them with a strikeout, short fly and pop-up. Schley took over in the seventh.
Irondale had solid hits in both innings they scored but errors factored in each time. Bruns fumbled a little nubber in the fifth and the next batter doubled off the fence to score the run, with the help of another bobble in the outfield. In the sixth, a dropped throw at first base with two outs let they tying run score from third.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking,” said Kemmetmueller, “but as a team we came together at end and knew what we had to do.”
Coach Bruns said he expected a meat-grinder and got one.
“This far into sections, there aren’t any easy teams,” he said. “They’ve all gone home by now.”
Delaney Kohler, Sena Hanson and Brittney Frenette each had two of Irondale’s 10 hits.
At Maple Grove on Tuesday, No. 2 seeded Rogers (19-2) faces Park Center on Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., in the losers bracket, while No. 1 Maple Grove takes on No. 3 Spring Lake Park in the winners bracket. The Rogers-Park Center winner faces the Maple Grove-Spring Lake Park loser right after that. The tournament will conclude on Thursday.