Rockford softball knocks off defending state champ on way to placing third

Caitlin McNeal of Rockford prepares to get hit by a pitch in the helmet in the victory over New Ulm at the state tournament. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)
Rockford sophomore Hannah Carlson connects as the leadoff hitter at the state tournament. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)
Rockford players were introduced at the state softball tournament, including senior Courtney Schmidt, greeted by fired-up teammates. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)
Rockford players were introduced at the state softball tournament, including senior Courtney Schmidt, greeted by fired-up teammates. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)

Rockets finish 24-3 after defeating New Ulm and Hawley



Rockford’s 3-0 victory over two-time defending state softball champion New Ulm to open the Class 2A tournament Friday was tempered by a 1-0 loss to LeSueur-Henderson in the semifinals.

The Rockets may have lost a shot at the state title, but not its determination. Rockford rallied to defeat Hawley 3-2 to claim the third place trophy in North Mankato. The place was one up from last year’s finish of fourth.

The two Rocket players named to the All-State tournament team, senior catcher Megan Bode and sophomore pitcher Bria Majeski, led the way against New Ulm, who knocked Rockford out in the state semifinals last year on way to another title.

Majeski took a no-hitter into the last inning when a dribbler to short resulted in the only New Ulm hit. She struck out five and benefited by errorless defensive play. Majeski was 2 for 3 and her double drove in the first run in the sixth inning.

Bode pushed home two more runs with a double. She was 2 for 3 at the plate and picked off a runner trying to steal third in the first inning. Both Bode and Majeski played in their second state tourney.

“Bria and I have worked together for so long that we are like sisters,” said Bode. “We trust each other as I can call any pitch. After New Ulm didn’t score in the first inning it gave us some confidence that we could get them out.”

Last year New Ulm pushed across five runs in the first inning. Rockford’s other hit was by junior shortstop Brianna Calder.

The game against LeSueur-Henderson was a pitcher dual. Carlie Brandt allowed just three Rocket hits and struck out 11 batters, the most this year by Rockford. Majeski yielded six hits and one earned run, striking out eight. Carlson, Bode and sophomore Allison McNeal had the hits. One of the three Rocket errors led to the only run. The rain for most of the game didn’t make it any easier.

“That was one of those games when you look back and wonder if you could have done something different,” said coach Dawn Engebretson. “It was disappointing but we bounced back pretty good to take third, which is quite an accomplishment.”

Hawley scored two runs in the fifth inning on a 2-run homer. Rockford responded with one in the bottom of the inning on a single by sophomore Allison McNeal.

In the sixth Caitlin McNeal singled, Calder doubled to tie the game and senior Kaylee Schumacher singled to drive home what turned out to be the game-winner. Schumacher had two of the five Rocket hits. Majeski gave up six hits, striking out eight.

Rockford loses four senior starters in Bode, Courtney Schmidt at first base and outfielders Schumacher and Megan Westrup. Six key players return with juniors Calder, and McKenzy Belanger (designated hitter), plus sophomores Majeski, infielders Caitlin and Allison McNeal and Carlson in center field. Sophomore Anya Cady was an effective pinch runner.

The state tourney roster includes sophomores Payton Palmer and Kailyn Reed and ninth-graders Emili Cain, Nina Eide and Brianna Westrup. Assistant coaches are Dan Pratt, Kelsey Sinclair and Teresa Campbell.

Majeski was named to the All-State second team and set a school record for strikeouts in a season. Calder was All-State honorable mention. Rockford finished with a 24-3 record.