Winning Big Nine Conference softball championships is nothing new for Mankato West, but that doesn’t mean those titles come easy.

“It means a lot,” senior second baseman Kaley Scearcy said. “We work really hard for it.”

West won its fifth straight Big Nine championship by sweeping a doubleheader against Austin on Thursday at the West field. The 10-0, five-inning victory in the opener and a 9-4 victory in the second game were part of the Scarlets’ breast cancer awareness promotions and fundraisers this week.

“I liked our focus,” West coach Don Krusemark said. “We took care of business in that first game. We got good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. It’s all there, we just have to keep pounding away.”

In the opener, Nikki Starkson pitched a one-hitter with nine strikeouts.

West scored six runs in the third inning to open the margin. Kaley Scearcy, Vanessa Lloyd, Janee Wise and Mia Barten each had two hits, while Barten had two RBIs and Lloyd drove in one.

“It always helps if I can get on base because that gives us some momentum,” Scearcy said. “I have a lot of good hitters behind me.”

West opened the lead early in the second game, scoring three in the first inning. Starkson’s two-run single, and an RBI single by Wise made it 3-0.

Kenzie Franke’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Chelsea Mielke plated two more runs in the fourth.

Wise led off the sixth with a home run, followed by singles from Barten, Katie Goettl and Mielke that scored two more runs. West’s final run came in the sixth when Tiffany Elkins’ groundout scored Malorie Veroeven.

“I thought we really kept the talk up,” Scearcy said. “Everybody was encouraging everybody. If we made mistakes, we didn’t let that get us down.”

Lloyd was the winning pitcher, allowing four runs, two of which were earned. She gave up six hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

West (19-2, 16-1 in Big Nine) opens the Section 2AAA playoffs Friday, May 28, at Eden Prairie. The second-seeded Scarlets, who are two-time defending section champions, will take on the winner of an earlier game between Waconia and Minnetonka at 7 p.m.

“I think we’re ready,” Krusemark said. “These girls have a lot of experience (in the section tournament) and have played in a lot of big games. They know what to expect, and that experience should helps us. We don’t need to do anything different.”

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