NORTH MANKATO — Over the final five innings of its Class AA state softball semifinal game on Thursday at Caswell Park, Le Sueur-Henderson hardly looked like a team that was at state for the first time in school history.
Team being the operative word.
After giving up a leadoff hit to Rockford in the top of the third inning, sophomore pitcher Carlie Brandt retired 15 of the final 16 batters she faced en route to a 1-0 victory and a spot in Friday’s championship game.
Brandt finished the game with 11 strikeouts and had 21 for the day. (The Giants defeated St. Anthony Village 4-2 in Thursday morning’s quarterfinal game.)
But during her string of outs against, which included 11 in a row before issuing her first walk of the game, her defense was rock-solid behind her — and in front of her.
A running catch on a fly ball tailing away from right fielder Katherine Cronk in the sixth inning might have been a game-saver.
“That was an amazing catch,” said Brandt, who allowed three hits and four players on base. “It really saved us. I thought, ‘(Cronk’s) got my back.’ It was amazing.”
In a quick fifth inning, catcher Sammy Winter’s heads-up play in which she snagged a fair ball that bounced high into the air off the plate and tagged the unaware hitter ended the inning.
“I told them in the huddle after we were done that every single one of them had something to do with today,” Giants coach Eric Lewis said. “It really was a team effort.”
Brandt drove in the game’s lone run in the bottom of the third inning. No. 9 hitter Kalie Devine had one of the Giants’ six hits and, after moving to second on Veronica Sinell’s sacrifice bunt, scored on a two-out single by Brandt.