XPlosion finishes fourth in Class A State Softball Fastpitch Tournament

The Minnesota XPlosion started slow and then steamrolled to a strong fourth-place finish last weekend at the ASA-MSF Class A State Girls Fastpitch Tournament held in Duluth.

The Minnesota XPlosion started slow and then steamrolled to a strong fourth-place finish last weekend at the ASA-MSF Class A State Girls Fastpitch Tournament held in Duluth.

"We didn't hit well in the first game, but then we were facing the best pitcher in the state" said coach Ron Tondryk. "It seemed like once we got through that game we started to put everything together."

The Cloquet-based XPlosion opened the tourney with a 3-1 loss to the always tough Minnesota Peppers who were led by star pitcher Brynne Dordel.

"She is a great pitcher and she had super command of all her pitches," explained Tondryk. "We just hoped she'd make a mistake, but she didn't make many of them."

The XPlosion managed just three hits in the game with the lone run scored by Leanne Gittings. Gittings singled with one out in the second and then scored on a double by Katrina Korman.


"When you are playing Class A softball you are playing the best of the best, and there is no margin for error," explained Tondryk. "We gave up two runs on an error and a home run in the first inning and that was pretty much the game."

The only other run of the game was scored in the second inning by the Peppers.

Following the loss, the XPlosion went on a tear and started beating up on some of the most storied programs in the state.

Game two saw the XPlosion down the Minnesota Irish Green team, which is one of two Irish teams that are considered to be the top programs in the state along with the Peppers, the Arctic Blast and the Minnesota Blizzard.

"We just started getting on a roll and playing well," mentioned Tondryk. "The game didn't start very well, but the girls reacted well after falling behind and showed a lot of maturity."

Tiffani Rodd led off the first with a single, which was followed by Rachel Tondryk being hit by a pitch. Sami Mattson singled to score Rodd and then Tondryk scored on a ground out by Gittings.

The Irish Green then stormed back with four runs in the bottom of the first to grab a 4-2 lead on three base hits and a home run.

In the third inning, things got worse for the XPlosion when the Irish Green were able to plate two more runs, taking a 6-2 lead.


"A 6-2 lead at this level is usually a pretty safe lead," Tondryk remarked. "Pitchers are so good that you usually don't see many runs scored, but to our girls' credit they kept fighting and then things literally exploded in the fourth inning for us."

The XPlosion managed to send five runners across in a wild and woolly fourth inning. With one out Emily Anvid doubled, Rodd walked and Tondryk singled to score Anvid. After another out, Gittings singled to score Rodd, Korman singled to score Tondryk and Kristin Swartz reached on an error that allowed both Gittings and Korman to score putting the XPlosion ahead 7-6.

"You just never know what will happen if you keep battling and that is exactly what the girls did," Tondryk said. "They didn't quit."

As if to put frosting on the cake, the XPlosion then had to face another top ranked team in the state - the Minnesota Irish Gold Team, which is considered to be a top national contender. The XPlosion dispatched the Irish Gold 4-0 behind a strong pitching performance from Tondryk, who held the strong hitting Gold to just one hit.

"[Tondryk] was incredible," said her uncle, coach Tondryk. "She pitched a perfect game earlier this season and she came close again. Their only hit came in the last inning and she allowed just a pair of walks."

Offensively, the XPlosion started things off quickly with Rodd smacking a single and then reaching second when Tondryk's sacrifice bunt attempt was muffed by the catcher, putting runners at first and second for Sami Mattson, who walked to load the bases. Gittings then singled to score both Rodd and Tondryk, giving the XPlosion a 2-0 lead after one inning.

Things would stay 2-0 until the XPlosion picked up a pair of runs in the seventh, when Tondryk reached base after striking out when the catcher threw wildly to first. Mattson then came up and delivered a long two-run homer that put the XPlosion up 4-0 in the top of the seventh.

"That homer by Sami was huge," explained Tondryk. "Because the Irish are so good we thought we might need some insurance runs and it made it a lot easier for Rachel to go out to the mound and be relaxed knowing she had four runs to work with."


Rodd led the hitting attack with a pair of hits to go along with Mattson's home run.

The XPlosion wrapped up their busy first day of the tournament by downing the Richfield Rebels 4-2, with Tondryk picking up her second straight win. For the record, Tondryk threw an eight hitter.

Tondryk started things out in the first inning by hitting a single up the middle and then advancing to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. Then following a Mattson walk, Tondryk scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Gittings and then Mattson scored on a hit by Korman to make it 2-0 in favor of the XPlosion.

Mattson started things off in the fifth with a single after one out and then Gittings followed with a home run to put the XPlosion ahead 4-0.

"It is kind of ironic that we had two big home runs and they happened against two of the best teams you'll see," said Tondryk of the home run by Gittings and Mattson. "Just like Sami's home run, the shot by Gittings gave us a little breathing room heading down the stretch."

Richfield responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Tondryk had just enough gas in the tank left to help the XPlosion scratch out the win.

Sunday morning, the XPlosion faced Lake Superior Fastpitch League rival the Duluth Aerials with the XPlosion taking away a 4-2 win behind the strong pitching of Korman who allowed just four hits in the game.

"The Aerials are a very good team and we've had quite a rivalry with them," stated Tondryk. "They gave us our first loss, but since that time we've had their number and beaten them three games in a row."


The Aerials led the game 1-0 after the first inning, but in the third inning the XPlosion picked up a one-out single by Anvid, who plays high school ball at AlBrook, and that was followed by an Alyssa Hanson single to score Anvid.

The XPlosion added a run in the fifth on a single by Hanson in one of the tournament's most unusual plays. Hanson bunted and appeared to beat the throw for a base hit. The pitcher who fielded the ball, then threw the ball away, allowing Hanson to race all the way to third. As Hanson slid into third the relay throw bounced off her helmet, allowing her to score the go ahead run.

"That was just great hustle by Alyssa and it was huge for us," said Tondryk. "I give her all the credit for getting us the momentum."

Mattson started a rally in the sixth inning with a single and then Gittings reached on an error by the third baseman. Korman then sacrifice bunted, allowing both runners to move up and eventually score to take a 4-1 lead.

The Aerials did manage a run in the seventh off Korman, and they had two runners on, but Korman managed to get a fly ball to left from Olivia Paulseth to end the game.

The XPlosion then fell 5-3 to St. Peter in the semifinals. St. Peter scored four runs in the first three innings, but they managed just one run the rest of the way.

The XPlosion picked up three runs in the fifth inning to pull to within 4-3 when Tondryk, Mattson and Sarah Williams all scored.

Rodd added two hits and Mattson doubled, while Korman pitched a strong game in relief of Tondryk, who pitched the first three innings.


"We did a very good job of scoring runs in the early part of games," explained coach Tondryk. "Our defense was nothing short of amazing and the girls really played with focus."

The XPlosion qualified earlier this season for the Triple Crown National Fastpitch Tournament in Park City, Utah, and will fly there next week to play against teams from all over the country.

"We've had some pretty good success in the nationals the last few years," recalled Tondryk. "I'll be anxious to see how this team responds to the pressure of playing at that high caliber."

Last summer the XPlosion finished ninth at the USSSA World Fastpitch Tournament in Colorado. In 2004, the XPlosion also placed ninth at the USSSA World Tournament in Shawnee, Kan., with their only two tournament play losses coming to the eventual World Champions and World Runner-Up.

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