NORTH MANKATO – At state tournaments, where the pressure is often at a boiling point, it’s commonplace to see veteran athletes come through in the clutch. So when a little kid with braces suddenly became a hero Friday at the 39th annual state softball tournament, this was a big deal.
Elena Linster is an eighth-grader at New Life Academy, the Woodbury school that claimed its fifth Class 1A championship since 2008 with a 9-3 victory over Badger/Greenbush-Middle River.
New Life senior pitcher Valerie Hohol struck out 10 Friday and finished the three-game tournament with 23 strikeouts and only one walk. That was no surprise. But when Linster (pictured) – the seventh hitter in the batting order – knocked two home runs over the fence and drove in four runs – well, she was as shocked as anyone. They were the first homers of her young career.
“On the first one I thought I popped it up,” she said. “And as I was rounding two I saw everyone come out and I thought, ‘Did it go over?’ The second one was even a bigger surprise.”
Her two-run homers in the second and fourth innings provided all the scoring Hohol needed. Linster became the sixth person in state tourney history to hit two home runs in one game.
“The thing is, I’m always thinking that I have to play well,” she said. “It’s a part of being on a sports team, you have to always do your best. I’ve hit home runs over the fence in practice but I didn’t think anything of it.
“Whenever I go up to bat I think, ‘I’m going to get a base hit,’ I visualize where it’s going to go. I was thinking, ‘If it’s there, I’m going to hit it.’ And I did. I was very surprised. It was very surreal.”
CLASS 2A: KASSON-MANTORVILLE REPEATS
The KoMets of Kasson-Mantorville won their second 2A title in as many years, holding off a talented and determined team from Maple Lake 2-1 in 10 innings. Winning pitcher Maddie Damon struck out 16 Friday, giving her 43 in the tournament.
The KoMets took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Laura Kosberg hit a solo home run. Maple Lake tied it in the sixth on a two-out double by Chloe Callahan. In the 10th, Kosberg drove in the game-winner with a bases-loaded single.
Maple Lake pitcher Kennedy Goelz-Haney gave up six hits in nine innings and gave up just four earned runs in 23 innings during the tournament.
CLASS 3A: EASTVIEW HOLDS OFF ANOKA
Eastview completed a late-inning comeback to defeat Anoka 2-1 and capture its first state title since 2003. Anoka went ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by Taylor Chell. In the sixth, Eastview scored the tying run on a single by Hailey Monroe. The winning run scored on a on a double by Julia Luciana in the bottom of the seventh.
Kerrigan Hoshaw got the win and finished the tournament with three wins, a 0.67 ERA and 24 strikeouts.
Class 1A/ Tianna Top, Edgerton/Southwest MN Christian; Kenna Salo, New York Mills; Megan Schroeder, Kayla Gross, Mankato Loyola; Aunica Novacek, Kellie Parnow, Emily Anderson, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River; Sydney Steel, Valerie Hohol, Elena Linster, New Life Academy.
Class 2A/ Carlie Brandt, LeSueur-Henderson; Brittany Denn, New Ulm; Kailey Mihalik, Jillayne Gilbert, Hermantown; Kennedy Goelz-Haley, Taylor Pilger, Linsey Rachel, Maple Lake; MiKayla Grant, McKenzie Hermann, Maddie Damon, Kasson-Mantorville.
Class 3A/ Ashley Mickschl, Woodbury; Hailey Fitzpatrick, Becker; Sydney Smith, Megan Mulchrone, Maple Grove; Kerrigan Hoshaw, Abby Lien, Sam Gall, Eastview, Apple Valley; Makayla Zimmer, Taylor Chell, Amber Elliott, Anoka.
Class 1A/ Mankato Loyola beat New York Mills 12-3
Class 2A/ Hermantown beat New Ulm 5-0
Class 3A/ Maple Grove beat Becker 13-1
Class 1A/ Edgerton/SW MN Christian beat Cherry 7-3
Class 2A/ LeSueur-Henderson beat Milaca 4-0
Class 3A/ Woodbury beat Chanhassen 2-1
--Change is coming to postseason softball and baseball next year, when a fourth class will be added.
STATE TRACK RECORDS FALL
Friday’s events at the state track and field championships, at Hamline University in St. Paul, were dominated by preliminaries, and two all-time state records fell.
--The Eagan boys 4x200 relay team of Josh Brown, Dallas Krech, Troy Brown and Sam Zenner topped the Class 2A prelims with a time of 1:26.91. The previous record was 1:26.92 by Wayzata in 2013.
--The Lakeville South girls team of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery set a record of 3:51.24 in the 2A girls 4x400 prelims. The previous mark was 3:51.26 by Hopkins in 2011.
The state track championship will conclude Saturday.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 595
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,170
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