by Scott DCamp
The 2019 Thief River Falls softball team took the field for the final time Friday morning, falling to Pipestone Area 4-3 in the Class AA third place game.
Both teams were coming off hard-fought semifinal losses. Third-seeded Pipestone fell 2-1 to second-seeded and eventual state champion Rochester Lourdes, while fourth-seeded Thief River Falls fell 9-5 to top-seeded Norwood-Young America in a game that the Prowlers were at one point winning 5-3, five outs away from playing for a state championship.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Thief River Falls Head Coach Carter Rogalla. “With the way things ended yesterday, the kids got to make a choice on what today was going to look like. Losing at the end, the way that unfolded, you could have packed it up and said that wasn’t our year. I thought our kids came out and battled. This is the best of the best in Class AA, and this team was right there.”
The Arrows broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third on an RBI single by Mandi Miller to score Jessa Reinert.
The Prowlers answered in the bottom of the third, with Alexa Rogalla scoring from second base on an RBI single by Gabby Steele.
Pipestone Area scored two runs on three hits in the top of the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Kaitlyn Draper led off the inning with a single to right and she stole second to get into scoring position. With two outs in the inning, she scored on an RBI single by Pipestone pitcher Adrianna Johnson. Pinch runner Mckenzie Manderscheid stole second to get herself into scoring position and she scored later in the inning on a single by Reinert.
Thief River Falls looked like it would answer in the bottom of the fourth. Hannah Magnusson led off the inning with a double, and she was replaced by pinch runner Kendal Martell. Eme Gunderson drew a one-out walk to put two runners on, but the threat would end with a lineout by Haylie Rogalla and a groundout by Alexa Rogalla.
Pipestone added to its lead in the fifth. With one out in the inning, April Haupert doubled down the left field line. She scored in the inning on a single by Paige Ahrendt.
Thief River Falls got back into the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut Pipestone’s lead to one run. The rally started with a bunt single by Lexi Huot. With one out in the inning, Steele singled to left field and Huot advanced to second. Next up, Khloe Lund doubled to left center to score Huot from second and Steele advanced to third on the play. With two runners in scoring position, Magnusson hit a deep fly ball to left field to score Steele from third on a sacrifice fly.
Neither team could get much going in the final two innings. Pipestone’s Carmen Skyberg singled with one out in the sixth, but she was thrown out trying to steal second as the Arrows were retired in order in the sixth and managed just one baserunner on an error by Lund.
The Prowlers also went down in order in the sixth, but they made things interesting in the seventh. With two outs in the inning, Steele hit a double to left center field that hit the top of the fence – mere inches from being a game-tying home run. Johnson retired Lund to end the game with Steele stranded at second.
“That’s sports,” Carter Rogalla said. “What was Gabby’s, three feet too short? A few more feet and it’s a tie game, and who knows from there. When we got down 4-1, we could have packed it up and folded there, too, but we didn’t. This team battled all season long and I couldn’t be more proud of the group.”
Friday’s third place game was the final game in Prowler blue for Alexa Rogalla, Hannah Magnusson, Breanna Wienen and Eme Gunderson.
“All four of them stepped up and were huge at different moments,” Carter Rogalla said. “Eme had a couple hits last night and got hit today. Hannah had a big hit today and Bre had the big hit yesterday morning. Alexa’s been dynamite for a long, long time on the hill and she was dynamite again today, giving us a chance against a good team.
“Those four are all going to be missed in different ways. There’s also going to be some opportunities for some kids next year.”
The Prowlers will return six starters next spring – juniors Lexi Huot, Camryn Schwab, Khloe Lund, Yasmine Vondal-Gayden, and sophomores Haylie Rogalla and Gabby Steele.
“It’s going to be a good group to build around,” Carter Rogalla said. “There are some young kids who hopefully got excited. I know they didn’t get to play a lot down the stretch, but hopefully they saw this, and it motivates them to work on some things this summer and gets us to a situation where we can come back down here next spring.”
The softball team will take a week off before beginning an abbreviated summer program that includes upcoming tournaments in Grand Forks, N.D., and Bemidji.
Pipestone Area...... 001 210 0 - 4 8 1
Thief River Falls... 001 020 0 - 3 9 2
Pitching - (Pipestone) Adrianna Johnson - W, 7 IP, 9 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts;(TRF) Alexa Rogalla - L, 7 IP, 8 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.
Offensive highlights - (Pipestone) Jessa Reinert 2/3, run, RBI; April Haupert 1/4, double, run, RBI; (TRF) Lexi Huot 2/3, run; Gabby Steele 4/4, double, run, RBI; Khloe Lund 1/4, double, RBI; Hannah Magnusson 1/2, double, RBI.