NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — Sadie Erickson took her sweet time to give the Norwood-Young America fans what they came to see.
Erickson waited until the final pitch of the game to swat a ball over the fence — the 20th time she has done so this season — to give the Raiders a 14-1, six-inning victory over Esko in a Class AA quarterfinal of the state softball tournament Thursday morning at Caswell Park.
The win sends the top-seeded Raiders (24-2) to a semifinal later Thursday, while the unseeded Eskomos (18-7) will play Le Sueur-Henderson in a consolation game at 7 p.m.
Norwood-Young America was in control by the time Erickson, who entered the tournament with a .641 batting average and 50 RBIs, crushed a grand slam over the center-field fence off reliever Kristy DeMuth.
“She can really swing it and has been having an outstanding year for us,” Raiders coach Joe Kley said. “We knew eventually she’d get a pitch to hit, and luckily she was able to capitalize on it.”
According to the Minnesota State High School League's somewhat unofficial records, Erickson’s 20 homers are four more than anyone else has ever hit in a single season.
“They had a slower pitcher (starting) and I tend to struggle more with slower pitchers,” Erickson said. “I like to see the heat.”
Erickson was 2-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs, all from the lead-off spot. Kley moved her from the No. 3 spot in the order to the top of the order during the section playoffs.
“It gives me more opportunities to get on base,” she said. “And I have a slapper before me and a slapper right after me to throw the defense off.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning when the Raiders scored three runs with one out. The same three batters at the top of the order scored the next inning as well — all with two outs — to make it 6-0.
“We controlled them the first couple innings and then they had a couple clutch hits,” Esko coach Jeff Emanuel said. “Then they got a little more confidence.
“My goal was to shock-and-awe them early on, but we didn’t come up with clutch hits for ourselves.”
Designated player Zoie Johnson accounted for the Eskomos’ lone run with a fifth-inning homer to center field.
Norwood-Young America pounced again in the bottom of the fifth by scoring four times, two on Abby Mackenthun’s double. That set the stage for Erickson to end the game early due to the 10-run rule.
“I’m very pleased with our performance,” Kley said. “Sometimes it takes us the second or third time through the lineup to get familiar with the pitchers, especially since we hadn’t seen Esko during the regular season.”
Mackenthun was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs; Audrey Steinhagen added two hits and three runs; and Lily Schneider totaled two hits and three RBIs.
“We have a really solid lineup all the way through,” Erickson said. "Even if the top of the lineup gets in a rut, the bottom of the lineup takes care of us.”