The Central Lakes Raiders rallied from a 4-0 deficit only to have a tag up trip them up in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region 13B tournament Thursday, May 16, in Brainerd.
The 10th-ranked Dakota Jacks jumped out early and then again in the eighth inning to secure a 7-4 victory to send the ninth-ranked Raiders into the loser's bracket, where they'll face Northland noon, Friday, May 17.
A Raider victory would force a rematch with Dakota, but CLC would have to win two over Dakota to advance to the national tournament.
It was close to being the other way around as CLC scored twice in the fifth, once in the sixth and another in the seventh to tie the score 4-4. The Raiders still had bases loaded and one out with power-hitting Lindsay Hendrickson at the plate. Hendrickson did her job and launched a shot deep into left field. A mixup on the tag up prevented any runners from advancing and more important scoring the winning run.
"It's a mistake," Raiders head coach Ray Austin said. "We really clawed our way back into the game against a really good team. Our pitcher threw really well. We played great defense. It just goes to show, when you get down to the end of the season, every little mistake is magnified.
"In the seventh, we had a mistake, but that wasn't the entire game. We had a chance, though."
Catcher Brianna Meyer then hit a ground out to end the inning to force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Dakota's Ladaija Fitzgerald was hit by a pitch and a passed ball moved her to second. Two singles helped load the bases before Stephany Ahmend hit a bases-clearing triple for a 7-4 lead.
The Raiders' Sam Schmipp collected a single in the bottom half, but that's all CLC could muster.
Dakota jumped out early with two runs in the first. A hit batter and a single followed by a grounder scored the Jacks' first run followed by an RBI single from Claire Hiebert.
The Jacks tacked on a run in the fourth after Sky Lyn Karonis walked and scored on an RBI single from Michelle Krahn.
A double and an RBI single from Fitzgerald scored Michelle Krahn in the fifth to hand Dakota 4-0 lead.
Dakota starting pitcher Randee Chario was cruising as she retired the first 11 batters she faced. A Lisa Kossan walk interrupted the streak, but CLC went through four innings without threatening the Jacks.
"We struck out five times in the first nine outs," Austin said. "To come back and put the ball in play after that shows the aptitude that our players have to adjust and learn from each at bat. That's all I can ask. Even the last two weeks of the year, they're still learning."
In the fifth, Meyer opened with a walk followed by a single from Kali Mammenga. Sam Schimpp's double scored Meyer and Nichelle Henderson's RBI single scored Mammenga with one out.
Haley Youngbauer then grounded out, but Schimpp tried to score on the play and was thrown out at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
Kossan singled and later scored on Meyer's RBI single in the sixth and Kallie Plantenberg walked and scored to tie the game in the seventh.
"All the way back to our spring Florida trip, I told the kids that we need to have a short memory," Austin said. "We played some really good teams down there. We got beat pretty bad a couple of times down there. The ability to forget about the last game, the last inning, the last at bat and the last pitch is huge in this game. I think we're pretty good at it. The kids are resilient. The magnitude of the game is obviously greater here, but we'll come back and we'll play well. We're not done. I know we're not done."
Earlier Thursday, CLC knocked off Itasca 3-1. Plantenberg struck out one, walked one and allowed one unearned run on five hits.
Haley Youngbauer went 2-3 with a double and a run. Cassidy Zontelli went 1-2 with a walk, stolen base and an RBI.
Lisa Kossan collected an RBI single and Plantenberg and Nichelle Henderson each hit a single and scored for the Raiders.
"We know what Dakota has," Austin said. "We saw both of their pitchers. I like our chances. I think we're as good a team as they are."
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2JHGx5G.
Itasca 1 5 2
Central Lakes 3 7 3
WP: Kallie Plantenberg. LP: Sarah Moir. 2B: CLC-Haley Youngbauer.
WP: Claire Hiebert. LP: Kali Mammenga. 2B: CLC-Kallie Plantenberg, Sam Schimpp. Overall: CLC 28-12-1. Next: Central Lakes vs. Northland/Itasca winner in NJCAA Region 13B loser's bracket in Brainerd.
NJCAA Region 13B
Key: A three-run eighth powered Dakota
Overall: CLC 28-12-1, Dakota 26-12
Next: Central Lakes vs. Northland in NJCAA Region 13B loser's bracket in Brainerd noon, Friday, May 17.
Nationals: Winner of CLC vs. Northland must defeat Dakota twice for a trip to the national tournament