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Prep softball: MLWR falls in extra innings in Class A title game

The Rebels held an early lead, but Nicollet scored a run in the top of the eighth inning to win the state championship.

Moose Lake/Willow River's Hanah Roach hits the ball during the Minnesota Class A championship game against Nicollet. The Rebels fell 3-2 in eight innings.
Moose Lake/Willow River's Hannah Roach hits the ball during the Minnesota Class A championship game against Nicollet. The Rebels fell 3-2 in eight innings.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune
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NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — Trailing by a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, it looked like Moose Lake/Willow River was going to win the Class A state title over Nicollet Friday at Caswell Park.

Freshman Sandra Ribich hit a long fly ball with one person on base that looked like it was going to clear the centerfield fence.

The Raiders’ Brooklyn Bode had other ideas. The Nicollet center fielder rushed toward the ball and reached out to make the catch as she crashed through the fencing.

If the ball had cleared the fence, the game would have been over and MLWR would have been a state champion. Instead, Nicollet took the title in a 3-2 win and left the Rebels heartbroken.

Sandra Ribich makes a catch for an out.
Moose Lake/Willow River's Sandra Ribich makes a catch at first base for an out during the Rebels' Class A championship game against Nicollet.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

“It would have been over, the outfielder just had perfect positioning on it,” MLWR coach Kelly Goeb said. “A foot higher, a couple feet further to the left and that would have been the end of the game, but that’s just how it goes. Some days it’s your day and some days it’s not.”

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Bode said she had “no idea” where the fence was but she was fully aware of the situation.

“I was thinking I’ve got to catch the ball so we can keep playing the game,” she said.

The Rebels took an early lead when Ribich drove in pitcher Sarah Christy in the first inning and Hallie Klavu in the third, but the Rebels were unable to keep the scoring going.

The Raiders made some mistakes early in the game that allowed the Rebels runs, but they rebounded and were able to take advantage of the mistakes that MLWR made as well.

Bode scored in the third inning and Samantha Kettner drove in a run in the fourth to tie the game.

Christy held the Raiders in check much of the game, allowing three runs and seven hits while striking out eight batters.

Nicollet pitcher Hayley Selby allowed two runs and six hits over five innings, but it may have been the ability of the Raiders to bring in fresh pitcher Marah Hulke that was the difference.

Hulke got the win, allowing one hit and striking out six over three innings for Nicollet.

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Moose Lake/Willow River's Sarah Christy makes a pitch.
Moose Lake/Willow River's Sarah Christy makes a pitch during the Rebels 3-2 loss in the Minnesota Class A state championship game.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

“They’ve got a great pitcher,” Nicollet coach Brianne Eldred said of Christy. “She throws that rise ball and she throws it inside. That’s a tough pitch to hit — if you’re not ahead of it, it’s going to be real tough to hit. We had two pretty fresh pitchers and the fact that we have two ace pitchers and we could use them in a game like this, I think that really set us apart.”

Despite the loss, Goeb was still proud of what she feels is a really special team.

“The chemistry on this team — I’ve never seen something like this before,” Goeb said. “There’s been no drama, they all get along and they all believe in each other. They all know that the other person has their back and when one person is down, somebody else is there to pick them up. I’ve honestly never coached a team this tight before.”

The Rebels (26-5) end their season as the state runner-up and have Christy, Ribich and fellow pitcher Alexis Hoffmann returning. Catcher Natalie Mikrot will move on to play basketball at Minnesota Crookston next year and will be tough to replace, but MLWR could contend for another section title in 2023.

“We’ll have a strong team next year,” Goeb said. “We’ll have a couple of spots to fill — shortstop, third base and catcher are all seniors, so we’ve got to fill out that part of the infield. We’ve got some girls that have been working hard and hopefully they’ll be ready to step up.”

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Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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