By Joe Tischler Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — On Tuesday, the Mankato East softball team lost a tough, 10-inning game at Rochester Mayo, but the Cougars didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on the defeat.
Less than 24 hours later, they faced undefeated Mankato West, and, without that loss lingering, they won the Big Nine Conference game 1-0 at the West field.
“That was a tough loss (Tuesday), and they took it hard,” East coach Joe Madson said. “And I kind of like that because it tells you it means something.
“For them to rebound like that and beat a very good team in West, that says a lot about the character of this group.”
West came in with a 12-0 record, averaging nearly 12 runs a game in their last seven contests, and batting .451 as a team overall.
Cougars junior pitcher Nicole Rasmussen held the high-powered Scarlets’ offense to just three hits. She allowed just five Scarlets base runners and struck out three.
“I did feel some pressure, because they’re the sixth-rated team in the state and they’re undefeated and with us coming from a hard loss yesterday,” Rasmussen said. “This win boosts our confidence a lot because we know we can perform better than we have.”
East’s other pitcher, Morgan Keim-Wolfe, threw nearly 180 pitches with 11 strikeouts in the loss to Mayo. Rasmussen’s performance shows they have depth on the mound, Madson said.
“(Keim-Wolfe is) really good, but Nicole showed you we have another good one too,” he said. “That’s nice, especially in this stretch where we’ve got a ton of games this week and next week. We don’t have to rely on one arm.”
Wednesday’s game was scoreless through three innings before the Cougars cracked the scoreboard in the fourth. Torey Richards led off the frame with a single up the middle. Shelby Beckman replaced her on first following a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, Beckman stole second and came around to score on an RBI single up the middle from Paige Lingbeck.
West had a threat in the bottom half of the inning with runners on second and third with two outs. Jen Larsen hit a smash to deep center, but Beckman made a lunging catch to halt the rally.
Beckman had another sterling catch in the sixth as she robed Lexy Schoper with a diving grab to save extra bases.
“You can’t say enough about our defense; we had a lot of good plays,” Madson said. “Shelby Beckman stole the show defensively, but there were a lot of other good plays.”
Rasmussen retired West in order in the seventh to preserve the shutout win.
East (7-4, 5-3 in Big Nine) next plays at Austin today while West (12-1, 9-1) travels to Faribault today.