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Class AA softball: Pipestone vanquishes last year’s victor; Eskomos rebound in consolations

Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune Esko shortstop Kaiylen Bergerson tags out Pipestone Area's MacKenzie Manderscheid on a stolen base attempt during Thursday's Class AA quarterfinal softball game in Mankato, Minn.1 / 3
Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune Esko second baseman Hannah Stark dives to make a stop during the Eskomos' Class AA quarterfinal game vs. Pipestone Area on Thursday in North Mankato, Minn.2 / 3
Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune Esko's Emilee Wilson pitches during Thursday's Class AA quarterfinal softball game vs. Pipestone Area. Esko lost 4-1 to fall into the consolation round.3 / 3

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — Esko softball coach Jeff Emanuel expressed concern about his team’s hitting prior to the Eskomos’ third consecutive state tournament appearance.

Shelby Bloemendaal did nothing to alleviate those worries.

The Pipestone Area senior pitcher tossed a two-hitter as the Arrows avenged last year’s tournament loss to Esko with a 4-1 victory in a Class AA quarterfinal Thursday morning at Caswell Park.

“We’re struggling bat-wise — we had a couple solid hits — but she’s a good pitcher, period,” Emanuel said afterward. “All credit goes to her, and we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do on our at-bats. Defensively, we struggled for an inning or two.”

Esko beat Pipestone 4-0 in the quarterfinal round a year ago, leaving the Arrows (23-2) excited about a rematch.

“We definitely wanted to get our revenge,” Bloemendaal said. “We’ve lost the first game of the state tournament the past two years, so our main goal was to win the first one and then keep chipping away.”

Emilee Wilson, who blanked Pipestone in that game a year ago, rebounded to throw another shutout in the evening in a 7-0 win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton to earn the Eskomos (23-5) a berth in the fifth-place game against either St. Agnes or Winona Cotter at 9 a.m. today.

In the Pipestone game, Bloemendaal retired the first 13 batters as the Arrows built a 4-0 lead.

Senior first baseman Ashley Pollema, who homered off Bloemendaal last season, nearly did it again as she drilled a pitch to the right-center field fence for a triple in the fifth inning. She scored on Kristy DeMuth’s two-out double for Esko’s lone run.

Too many times Esko chased a high pitch to fall behind in the count and then Bloemendaal painted the outside corner to finish off the out.

“She was good at changing it up and moving it around the plate,” Pollema said. “The ump was calling the outside pitch for both teams, so it was challenging to hit the ball.”

That’s what Wilson did in last year’s contest en route to a 13-strikeout performance. The roles were reversed this time.

“The script kind of flipped,” said Arrows coach Troy Bouman, who recorded his 443rd career victory. “Last year they got the early lead and got up on us, this time we got the 4-0 lead on them.

“And (Bloemendaal) threw extremely well today, she hit her spots and got them to chase a little bit. That’s what we did last year. We were the undisciplined ones last year, and this year they were a little undisciplined.”

While Esko was going three-up, three-down the first four innings, the Arrows scored one run on a single and an error in the first and tacked on three more in the third on a walk, an error and three straight run-scoring singles.

Once in that big of a hole, the Eskomos were in deep trouble.

“We were more disciplined at the plate,” Bloemendaal said. “(Wilson) is really good and we chased a lot of riseballs last year, so we worked on that all week. We did a really good job of not chasing as much this year.

“Plus my coach did a great job of calling pitches and my catcher (Logan Winter) did a great job of framing pitches. She always makes me look 100 times better than I actually am.”

Esko 7, DGF 0

Wilson tossed a three-hitter and struck out five to end the Rebels’ season at 19-8.

Dea DeLeon, who had been dropped from leadoff batter to seventh in the order, was 3-for-4 and reached on an error, drove in three runs and scored twice.

Jenna Zdebski was 2-for-3 and scored two runs, while Miranda Kelley had an interesting day by running twice as a courtesy runner and then delivering a two-single as a replacement for an injured Kristy DeMuth.

Senior first baseman Ashley Pollema hit a home run in the state tournament for the second straight year.