Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO —
Mankato East proved it's a team that won’t back down.
Against No. 4 seed Eden Prairie Thursday night in the second round of the Section 2AAA softball tournament at Caswell Park, the Cougars clawed their way back twice to either tie the game or take the lead. But costly errors did in the Cougars late as they fell 9-7.
East, the No. 5 seed, trailed 3-1 after four innings before mounting its first comeback. Senior Savannah Quandt singled to left to lead off the fifth. Two batters later, sophomore Paige Lingbeck hit a blast deep over the center-field fence to tie the game at 3.
Lingbeck went 2 for 4 with three RBIs as part of a 12-hit attack for the Cougars.
“We have gone through streaks where we haven’t been hitting the ball, so this feels good going into Saturday,” Lingbeck said.
Starting pitcher Megan Ulrich pitched well through the first innings, allowing three unearned runs in the third. The Eagles bats came alive in their half of the fifth using five straight base hits to score three runs to retake the lead 6-3.
In the sixth, the Cougars staged their second comeback. Quandt hit a one-out single to left to score Morgan Keim-Wolfe. Two batters later, Lingbeck delivered her second run-producing hit in as many innings with a single to right scoring Quandt to cut the deficit to one. Junior Macy Anderson then connected with a big two-out, two-run double to left to give the Cougars a 7-6 lead.
“We certainly battled back,” East head coach Joe Madson said. “I loved our mindset when we got down big.”
As quick as East got the lead, it gave it away just as swiftly. With runners on second the third and two outs for Eden Prairie in the sixth, Lauren Oberle hit a low liner to East second baseman Carolyn Osdoba. She had the ball in her glove for an instant before it fell out. She picked it up and then threw wildly past first allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score for the Eagles.
“Both teams kind of gave each other some runs,” Madson said. “This game was pretty evenly played in a lot of ways, but at the same time I thought we kicked a couple more than we needed to.”
East wasn’t able to put a third rally together, going down in order in the seventh.
The Cougars will play again at 2 p.m. Saturday at Caswell Park in an elimination game against Chaska.