Seniors knew long ago they would play at state
BY DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
There should be no surprise that Rockford would show the willpower needed to win the Section 5AA title game, sending the school to state for the first time in 23 years.
“This senior group of girls has been talking about playing at state since we were little,” said senior Lexi Majeski. Senior Ashley Dick adds, “Ever since we started playing together we always had been a good team. We were young, but said when we are seniors we will be going to state. Our thoughts and wishes came true.”
Rockford won two of three games from Becker last week to clinch the crown. The first game at state is 1 p.m. Thursday, June 6 against Fergus Falls at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The second came is scheduled for 7 p.m., the same time as graduation. The hope is to move the game to 3 p.m.
Trophy games start at 9 a.m. Friday, June 7 with consolation, followed by the third place game at 11 a.m. and the title game at 2 p.m. Dick said the seniors discussed what to do about the senior all night party when they may be playing the next morning.
“Both events are a once in a lifetime thing,” said the senior who was named to play in the state All-Star series. “We know we will get our diploma either way and will see our friends all summer, so we will focus on softball.”
After all, how could the Rocket players turn away now after being so committed to a task after all these years? It showed especially after Rockford lost the first title game to Becker, forcing a make or break game. Majeski spoke with determination when she told her teammates, “We are not going to lose this game.” She went out and pitched a 2-hitter in the 7-0 victory.
“My reaction to winning the title was pretty much that my heart would not stop racing,” said Dick. “I was so excited and have never been so happy in my life about softball. We were singing the entire bus ride home. And then, the Rockford fire truck escorted us through town with the lights on and siren blowing.”
Coach Dawn Engebretson has coached the Rockets for 16 seasons and has never seen a team face so many obstacles and still come out on top.
“They have been through so much and have stayed focused on softball,” notes the coach about how poor weather and local field construction had a major impact. “With the crazy weather we had, indoor practice forever, games cancelled, only getting one week of home games, not being able to host our own tournament, not being able to practice on our field since May 10 and having to play our first home playoff game at Delano.”
Rockford won over Delano to play Becker in the battle of sub-section champions. In the 3-1 Rocket victory, ninth-grader Bria Majeski pitched six innings, allowing six hits. Lexi entered in the seventh to close out the win. With the bases loaded and one out Lexi got a strike out and fly ball to center to end the game.
Sophomore Brianna Calder and Bria Majeski each had two hits, while ninth-grader Hannah Carlson, Dick, senior Katelynn Pedersen and junior Megan Bode each had a hit.
Becker defeated Delano 6-5 to earn another crack at Rockford in the first title game Thursday and won 5-3. Carlson, Pedersen senior Amanda Thingvold each had two hits, while Calder, Bode and Lexi Majeski had one hit each.
In the deciding game, Rockford led by just two in the sixth inning when the team scored four runs to build the lead and confidence. Carlson was 3 for 5, while Dick, Pedersen, Lexi Majeski, Bode and Bria Majeski all contributed hits to go with seven walks.
“Lexi pitched the entire game and was amazing,” said Engebretson. “She gave up two hits, struck out four and had no walks, while pitching in the rain off and on. Our seniors were amazing in this game. They were our leaders and were determined to get this done.”
Lexi said she was able to hit her spots when pitching, avoiding giving Becker’s big hitters a pitch in their sweet spot.
“I like pressure and our team works very well under pressure,” adds the senior. “When we get down we play harder and smarter. In the last game we were so excited and enthusiastic that nothing could stop us. We all have some talent, but the key is that we are so competitive within ourselves.”
Majeski has enjoyed sharing the pitching mound with her sister Bria, adding, “We have each other’s back. We worked together a lot on pitching over the years. It throws the batters off when they go against Bria at 5-foot-7 and I come in at 6-3 to give them a different look.”
Both Majeski and Dick have been on varsity the past four years. Over the past two seasons Rockford only lost three seniors total, building to an experienced unit this year.
“We have such a strong batting order all the way through the lineup,” said Dick, who plays at second base. “Every single player made clutch hits and we have no automatic out. We have confidence in our whole team all around and there was never a thought that we could not do this.”
Dick had a standout season and was named to play in the High School All-Star Series Sunday, June 9 at the site of the state tournament. She also played varsity soccer four seasons and played basketball up until this year so she could focus on softball and not reinjure her knee.
The defensive lineup at state will be Lexi or Bria at first base or pitcher, Dick at second, Calder at shortstop, Pedersen at third and Bode catching. Thingvold is in left, Carlson in center and senior Madison Read is in right.
Junior Megan Westrup is the designated hitter. Junior Kaylee Schumacher is the first sub for an outfielder. Subs for running and hitting are junior Courtney Schmidt and ninth-graders Anya Cady, plus Allison and Caitlin McNeal. Sophomore McKenzie Belanger can hit, run or play the outfield. Assistant coaches are Amy Sarne and Teresa Campbell.
In the second round at state, Rockford would either face New Ulm (20-3) or Maple River (18-4). Fergus Falls is 14-10, while Rockford is 16-3.