By Joe Tischler Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — NORTH MANKATO — A year ago, Mankato East hit a walk-off home run in the eighth inning to top Mankato West to win the Big Nine Conference softball championship.
The two crosstown rivals met again to crown a champion Friday night at Caswell Park, but this time, with a drastically different result.
West senior Jessica Goerger hit a 3-run homer in the first as part of a 4-for-4 performance and the Scarlets drubbed the Cougars 13-3 in five innings to win the Big Nine title.
“It means a lot (to win the conference title),” said Goerger. “We have a big group of seniors and it’s very important to us with us not getting a conference championship the last few years.”
One of those seniors, Kinzie Scearcy, got the first inning rally started with a bloop double to left. Lexy Schoper singled two batters later in front of Goerger’s big blast to left.
Goerger later singled in the third, doubled in the fourth to drive in a run, and singled again in the fifth to bring home another run.
“She’s a good a player; she’s been a good player for us for a long time,” said West head coach Don Krusemark. “There’s a reason she was an all-state player for us last year and continuing that this year.”
After giving up four first inning runs, the Cougars did their best to make a game of it. Savannah Quandt delivered a 2-RBI single in the third bringing home eighth graders Torey Richards and Morgan Keim-Wolfe to cut the deficit in half.
The Scarlets put three runs on the scoreboard in the fourth to go up 7-2 with the help of a pair of East errors and a pair of key run-producing doubles from Lauren Makela and Goerger.
West ended the game in the fifth by hitting six singles on their way to a six-run inning and a 10-run win.
The section playoffs are next up for both teams.
“I think we have a very high confidence level so now we just need to keep it going and keep performing in practice so we can perform well in sections,” said Goerger.
As the top seed in the Section 2AAA playoffs last year, the Scarlets were upset in their first game by Waconia. The drive will be there to make sure they don’t exit early again.
“We definitely have that in the back of our minds,” said Goerger. “I think we’re prepared and we have that drive behind us to do better.”
East reached the championship matchup with a 5-3 win over Rochester John Marshall in the play-in game. The Cougars trailed 3-2 going into the seventh but rallied for three runs.
Jordan Kuster drove in the game-winner and finished with two RBIs. Megan Ulrich got the win, striking out six.