BY DAVE PEDERSEN
The Rockford Area Athletic Association’s 14U Green fastpitch team had a slow start to the season, but finished strong when placing second at the state tournament in Buffalo.
Coach Dawn Engebretson continued her run of qualifying teams to state. She led the Rockford high school team to a fourth place finish at the state high school tournament last spring.
“For the season, this team was 9-14,” said Engebretson. “The strength of this team was the fact that they kept getting better all season. We had days we struggled with both offense and defense, but they all played well at the state tournament and it was a great way to end the season.”
After dominating Windom 18-5 and Anoka-Ramsey 14-2, Rockford lost to Brainerd 8-2. A 7-5 win over Willmar put Rockford into the title game against Brainerd. This time the team lost 14-6.
Grace Rootness and Samantha FitzSimmons pitched, while Kim Olson caught all five games. FitzSimmons led the offense with 10 hits, followed by Olson with seven hits and a home run. Grace Rootness added six hits.
Against Windom, Rootness pitched and allowed two hits. Rockford had nine hits, including a triple by Alexis Becklund.
FitzSimmons pitched against Anoka-Ramsey, allowing three hits and striking out five. Olson provided a home run, while bunt singles were made by Rootness, Ashley Hood, and Echo Dietzler.
Some costly errors did not help in the first loss to Brainerd. Bryn London drove in a run with a triple. Dietzler and Charlotte Faue scored the runs.
Rockford was not ready to go home. Against Willmar, both FitzSimmons and Rootness pitched, allowing five hits and notching six strikeouts.
Engebretson said Jessie Johnson played great at first base and Maddy Hudlow at second. FitzSimmons went 3 for 3 and scored three runs.
In the championship, FitzSimmons and Rootness both pitched well, according to Engebretson, but adds her team made too many errors. Ashley Hood had a run-scoring double.
Rockford played in a 10-team league, rotating three pitchers. Olson also pitched but was needed at catcher at the state tourney.
“I coached this group because RAAA had enough players sign up for to need two teams,” adds Engebretson. “It was fun to work with that age group again. Former player Kayla Maher helped me coach and did a lot of work while I was finishing up the school season. Coaches Dan Sanderson and Michael Pedersen also helped out until I could focus the team.”
The Rockford varsity team will ride in the parade at Rockford River Days starting at noon, Sunday, Aug. 11.