By Dave Pedersen
Crow River News Sports
The Crow River Revolution U14 Blue fastpitch softball team captured the state Tier 1 championship Sunday in Cottage Grove.
Involving players from primarily Rockford and St. Michael-Albertville, the Revolution won three straight close games to advance to the championship game. After a loss to Stillwater, Crow River edged the same team 3-2 in the double elimination event.
The state title completed a season filled with adversity. In fact, because of injuries CR played in the state qualifying tournament a week earlier with just nine players. It was the same situation at state.
The state tourney happened to be when head coach Dawn Engebretson was not able to be there because of a wedding. She asked her assistant Rockford varsity coach, Jason Calder, to coach a team he had not been a part of all season. Former Rockford player Kailyn Reed also helped coach at state.
To add even more drama and intensity at state, all five victories were decided by one run. In the first game against Prescott the Revolution surrendered three runs in the top of the first inning. Prescott added a run in the top of the third to lead 4-0. The Revolution came to life in the bottom of the third, scoring two runs.
CR pitcher Elise Weinzierl settled into a groove and held Prescott scoreless while her team scored twice to tie in the last inning. After neither team scored in the first extra inning, Prescott scored two runs in the top of the eighth.
In the bottom of the inning Makayla Graunke hit a triple to score Ellie Sather for one run, followed by an RBI single by Sara Byers that tied the score. After Byers stole second base, Alayna Manning hit a single to score Byers for the 7-6 dramatic comeback victory.
Game two saw the Revolution matched up against the Lady Crush from Monticello. The teams split two league games this season. The Revolution took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when pitcher Gracie Kate LeMonds singled to drive home Emma Miller.
Monticello battled back to score twice in the third inning and led 3-1 going into the bottom of the last inning. The Revolution got back to back singles from Weinzierl and Graunke. After a passed ball allowed the runners to advance to scoring position, Sather drove in two runs to tie the game. Khulyn Johnson beat out an infield hit to score Sather with the winning run.
In game three against Soderville the Revolution build a 4-0 lead after three innings. Hannah Greeno provided an important RBI to give the Revolution an early lead. Behind a strong pitching start by Graunke, it appeared the Revolution may have a less dramatic game.
However, an inning that included four walks and two errors quickly changed that, as Soderville cut the lead to 4 to 3. After failing to add to the lead, the Revolution had to wiggle out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation to hold on for the victory. LeMonds and Weinzierl each pitched in relief.
THE FINAL GAMES
Sunday started with a game against Stillwater, also undefeated. Weinzierl pitched well as did Stillwater. The Revolution stranded eight runners in six innings. In the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, Johnson provided a bases clearing double.
CR moved on to the title game while Stillwater was able to win its way back to the title game, but needed to win twice. Stillwater built a 5-2 lead in the sixth inning before the Revolution would tie the score on four hits in the bottom of the inning. This time CR couldn’t complete the dramatic win as Stillwater scored three in the top of the seventh inning to cap the 8-3 win.
LeMonds was given the ball to start pitching in the winner take all second game. She responded by holding the Ponies scoreless through three innings. Singles by Johnson, Miller and Weinzierl gave the Revolution a 2-0 lead. Another big hit by Johnson drove in a third run.
Stillwater put together a rally to cut the lead to 3-2, but Weinzierl came on to get the save and give the Revolution the championship.
Engebretson said her team split two regular season games in the Big West division against both Monticello and Soderville and went 12-4 in league play.
Adversity started early in the season when in the first week a catcher broke her wrist and was lost for the season. A week before the qualifier another catcher got sick and could not play. Sara Byers moved from the outfield to catch at both the qualifier and state tourney.
At two other tournaments two Revolution players were sent to the emergency room with injuries.
“Our defense has been strong through the entire season,” adds Engebretson. “We took advantage of our speed, playing small ball and bunting a lot.”
Last season the Revolution had most of the same players that went to state in Tier 2. Because of the first day being rained out and CR losing the first game, the team had to play nine games on Sunday, advancing to the title game before losing and finishing second.
At the state qualifying tournament Revolution Blue defeated Champlin Park 2-1, OMGAA 7-1 and Monticello 6-1 before losing to Arctic Blast Black 8-1. After a 7-3 victory the Arctic Blast won the again, this time 9-2. Both teams advanced to state.
Crow River Revolution U14 Green qualified for the state Tier 2 tourney where it lost 6-0 to Cold Spring, defeated St. Paul North A 5-3 and lost 3-1 to the North Polars.
The Revolution U16 team also advanced to state in Tier 1, losing 4-1 to OMGAA and 5-1 to Minnesota Irish.
Tryouts for next year’s Crow River Revolution U14 and U16 teams are Aug. 8. For information go to www.revfastpitch.com.