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XPlosion proves endurance, fun will win games

The Cloquet area-based Minnesota XPlosion girls fastpitch team recently returned home following a ninth-place finish at the USSSA World Fastpitch Tournament in Fort Collins, Colo. The XPlosion placed three years.

The Cloquet area-based Minnesota XPlosion girls fastpitch team recently returned home following a ninth-place finish at the USSSA World Fastpitch Tournament in Fort Collins, Colo. The XPlosion placed three years.

"This is a great group of girls," said XPlosion coach Ron Tondryk. "We played well and we had a chance to move on, but it didn't work out."

The XPlosion's two losses in tournament play were to the eventual champs and the team which finished fifth.

In the opening of pool play the XPlosion took a thrilling 11-9 win over The Wildfire Sting of southern Colorado. Trailing 8-5 entering the final inning, the XPlosion got a leadoff hit from Sami Mattson and a Sarah Tondryk base hit which was followed by a hit by Emily Anvid to cut the lead to 8-6. After a ground out to second allowed the runners to move to second and third and another ground out on which neither runner scored, the XPlosion got a key hit by Sarah Williams to tie the game.

"There was a ton of pressure on Willie (Williams)," explained Tondryk. "The time limit for the game was up and she was our last hope."

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The hit scored both Tondryk and Anvid to tie the game and eventually Sami Mattson hit a walkoff home run in extra innings to win the game.

"Sami had an unbelievable game with two homers," mentioned Tondryk. "Tiff Rodd also had a huge bomb for us, but every kid in the lineup did something big in that game."

Mattson was fantastic with a pair of homers, a double and a single in a 4-for-4 effort.

In game two the XPlosion fell apart and trailed the Elite Force of northern Colorado by a score of 8-0 before responding and taking a huge win.

"The wheels just didn't come off the wagon in the beginning of that game," said Tondryk. "It seemed like the whole engine fell out of the car, but the girls came back and won the game!"

In the bottom of the second and down 8-0, Sarah Tondryk walked, Anvid singled, Katrina Korman walked, Lauren Kontny walked, Alyssa Hanson walked, Courtney Esse singled and after an out Tiffani Rodd doubled, Kristin Swartz doubled and Mattson doubled. When the dust cleared the XPlosion had tied the game at 8-8.

"It was one of the toughest games and most exciting games to be part of," Tondryk stated. "To come from that far behind and win was incredible."

A big key was the pitching of Rachel Tondryk and the stronger defense the team played as the game wore on.

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"Rachel struggle early and so did the team," recalled coach Tondryk. "After the second inning Rachel just dominated them and that allowed us to get the win."

In the international tie break rule the XPlosion held the Force to no runs in the top of the extra inning. Finally in the bottom of the inning Courtney Esse was put on second base, Rachel Tondryk walked, Tiffani Rodd flew out to center and then Kristin Swartz slammed a double to end the game.

"The top of our lineup is pretty darn impressive," Tondryk expressed. "Rachel (Tondryk), Tiffani (Rodd), Kristin (Swartz), Sami (Mattson), Sarah (Tondryk) and Emily (Anvid) can all be scary to pitch to!"

Despite a finely pitched game by Katrina Korman, the Diamonds of Omaha, Neb., slipped by the XPlosion 4-3 in their final pool play game.

"I just can't say enough about Katrina (Korman) and the way she has improved this summer," Tondryk remarked. "Katrina is just 15 years old and she handled some great teams at the state tournament and in the nationals."

For her part Korman fanned nine and allowed just four hits. The XPlosion bashed out 11 hits, but they were unable to come up with the timely hit to blow the game open.

Rachel Tondryk had three hits and both Mattson and Kontny had two hits in the loss.

In game one of tournament play the XPlosion pounded the Lady Parrots of Springfield, Ill., by a 7-0 score with Sarah Tondryk throwing a three-hitter.

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"Sarah did not play college ball this year and it took a while for her to build her strength back up in the shoulder," explained coach Tondryk. "That was about as good a game as she's ever pitched and her velocity was there again."

The XPlosion scored a pair in the first, two in the second, one in the third and two more in the fourth inning. Rodd and Mattson each smacked out three hits and Swartz had two hits. The big hit was a double by Korman to start off the second inning, allowing the XPlosion to put some daylight between them and the Lady Parrots.

The second game of tournament play saw the XPlosion blast Cheyenne, Wyo., by a 10-0 score with Rachel Tondryk throwing the shutout and picking up the win on a two-hitter while fanning seven.

In the second inning the XPlosion struck for three runs when Kontny, Anvid and Korman all scored with Alyssa Hanson and Sarah Williams getting base hits to score the runs.

"Those four younger girls all were great for us this year," mentioned Tondryk of Korman, Hanson, Esse and Williams. "We had a lot of doubters who wondered why we would take such young kids, but they all performed great for us."

A big key in the win was Kontny's two-hit performance that keyed the XPlosion in their two big innings, the second and fifth, when they scored three and four runs, respectively.

"Lauren was big for us and really pounded the ball in Fort Collins," recalled Tondryk. "She and Anvid were two big pickups for us this year."

Swartz rapped out three hits while Sarah Williams, Mattson, Korman and Kontny all added a pair of hits.

Despite an impressive pitching performance by Korman in the next round, the XPlosion fell 4-1 to eventual USSSA World Champions the Nemesis out of New Mexico.

"Korman gave up just eight hits to the national champions and that ain't bad for a 15-year-old," stated Tondryk. "It was 1-1 going into the sixth inning and we made an error that hurt us."

Five times during the game the XPlosion had runners as far as second base with less than two outs, but were unable to get the runs across.

"We had our chances and that is a game our girls would love to have back," Tondryk said. "They were a good team, but we certainly felt we could play right with them and we proved that by the score."

Rodd reached base all three times and had a double in the loss while Esse scored the lone run on a double by Rodd in the third inning.

The XPlosion had seven hits in the game.

In the final game of the tournament the XPlosion fell 7-6 to the Pueblo Shockers in a game they led most of the way.

"We led 6-2 and they got five unearned runs in the game," Tondryk stated. "They took advantage of our mistakes-- it's what good teams do."

Rachel Tondryk took the loss, giving up 11 hits while the XPlosion bashed out 13 hits in the loss.

Mattson added another home run in the game, Rachel Tondryk had three hits while Korman and Sarah Tondryk each had a pair of hits.

"We had great pitching all year long and our catcher, Anvid, was just fantastic for us," said Tondryk. "The attitude on this bunch was to never say die and they played the game the way it is supposed to be played. They have fun!"

The XPlosion finished the season with a 28-10 record and won the Lake Superior Fastpitch League, took third in the Mankato Peppers National Qualifier, fourth in the Minnesota Metro Federation State Tournament and in the process this year they defeated some of the top 25 teams in the country.

"That is an impressive year by any standards," Tondryk commented. "The neat thing is only one girl, Sarah Tondryk, will be too old to play next year. It could be one heck of an interesting year if we can get these kids to do it all again!"

Pine Journal sports reporter Kerry Rodd can be contacted at: kdrodd@aol.com .

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