By Denny Weller Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — It’s not often the Mankato East and West softball teams combine to score nine runs and collect 20 hits, but when it does happen it makes for an entertaining contest.
Local fans were treated to just that Friday at Thomas Park as senior third baseman Callie Looft’s three-run, sixth-inning home run lifted West to a hard-fought 5-4 Big Nine Conference win over the Cougars.
“It was an entertaining game in that it wasn’t your typical game where there are three of four hits and it’s 1-0,” East coach Joe Madson said. “There were a lot of hits and we probably made a few more defensive miscues which led to a few runs.”
East (0-2) trailed 5-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh when freshman pitcher Morgan Keim-Wolfe laced a one-hop bullet directly at freshman right fielder Tristin Danay, who fielded the ball and fired a strike to first baseman Krista Goerger to nip the speedy Keim-Wolfe.
The Cougars ended up trimming the deficit to 5-4 behind hits from Torey Richards and Macy Anderson before eighth-grader Lilly Andrego’s liner was caught by Goerger to end things.
“There were two teams out there with a lot of tradition and neither team wanted to lose,” West coach Don Krusemark said. “Both teams know how to win games like this and when you don’t want to lose you find ways to answer.
“Our bats weren’t there yesterday or for the first three innings today. I told the girls the game is a lot more fun when you get a few hits so that’s a positive for us going into our tournament (Saturday).”
West (2-0) scored an unearned run in the top of the fourth when Looft bounced a one-out single through the hole, moved to second base on an infield out and scored on the first of two Cougars’ errors.
East grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the frame off Scarlets’ starter Jen Larsen. Anderson, a senior third baseman, singled sharply off Larsen’s leg before senior first baseman Shelby Beckman rocketed a two-run blast over the center field fence.
“It felt really good when I hit it and I was just hoping it was going to go out,” said Beckman, who along with Keim-Wolfe and Anderson ripped two hits each. “I thought we played really well today.”
After Paige Lingbeck’s RBI, fifth-inning single put the Cougars in front 3-2, Megan Svir’s double to deep left field and Lexy Schoper’s single up the middle set up Looft’s blast over the right-center field fence.
“I just wanted to get a base hit and when I hit it I knew it was a good one, but I wasn’t sure it was going to go over,” Looft said. “I think a lot of girls didn’t know what to expect yesterday, but we knew today that if we didn’t hit the ball we weren’t going to win.”
West extended its lead to 5-3 in the seventh when slick-fielding eighth-grade second baseman Emily Veroeven singled up the middle and eventually scored on Hannah Hastings’ infield base hit.
Looft and senior right fielder/pitcher Bre Black led a 10-hit Scarlets’ attack with two apiece. Larsen allowed three runs on six hits over five innings before Black gave up one run on four hits the rest of the way. Keim-Wolfe struck out two and walked one in going the distance.
Today, East plays a 3 p.m. doubleheader in Winona and the Scarlets host their own eight-team tournament at Caswell Park beginning at 11 a.m.