Raiders make statement in playoffs
This year's Sub-Section 6-1A playoff run by the Lake Park-Audubon softball team is a good sign that the building process the Raiders have been under since starting the varsity program three years ago, is starting to produce some prime results.
Entering the Sub-Section playoffs as the No. 7 seed, the Raiders promptly downed No. 8 Cass Lake-Bena in the play-in game, then proceeded to upset the No. 2 seeded Walker/Hackensack-Akeley to advance to the semifinals and one game away from the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
The win over the Wolves was easily the Raiders' biggest win in their three-year existence -- and ironically, it came on the same night as LP-A passed its historical referendum.
Even though the young Raider team -- which was starting four seventh graders -- was a heavy underdog, they gave the No. 3 Menahga Braves all they wanted to handle Thursday.
But with some stellar pitching by Brave junior pitcher Lindsey White, Menahga defended their home turf with a 3-0 win over LP-A.
White finished with 14 strikeouts, walking none and limited the Raiders to three hits.
"Our older players have seen fast pitching like (White's), but our younger players have not seen that kind of speed," said LP-A head coach Bobbi Jo Blickenstaff.
Senior LP-A pitcher Christine McIntire was up to the task of quieting the Braves' potent bats, as well, with Menahga only gaining four hits.
McIntire was again accurate as she has been all season by walking two and striking out seven.
"I'm proud of the team for getting this far," McIntire said. "Starting four seventh graders and getting this far, is pretty good."
Menahga dodged an early bullet in the top of the first inning, after the Raider leadoff hitter, junior catcher Chelsey Raaen smacked a single.
She took second on an overthrow to first base, but was thrown out by the Braves' catcher trying to steal third base.
The Raiders lost another opportunity to score first in the second inning, when McIntire led off with a double.
But White allowed McIntire to go no further, as she recorded two strikeouts and a pop fly to second base to end the frame.
That gave the Braves their turn to break the scoreless tie in the third, after Katie Miller hit a two-out single. White helped herself with an RBI single to put Menahga up 1-0.
Insurance was bought in the sixth inning with two more runners plating scores.
A single by Joy Haataja and an RBI triple by White, along with an RBI hit by Megan Miller put the Braves up 3-0.
That was more than enough for White, who had her fastball zipping past the Raider batters.
Menahga lost to Hawley in the Sub-Section finals, with both teams advancing to the Section 6-1A tournament against Bertha-Hewitt and Parkers Prairie.
For the Raiders, though, this year's playoff run will be a good launching pad of sorts for the near future.
LP-A loses two key seniors in McIntire and Carissa Adams, but returns an abundance of experience -- albeit young.
"I coached these seventh graders as sixth graders, so it's fun seeing them do well," McIntire said. "I'm not afraid of leaving, either, because we have two good pitchers coming up in freshman Maegan Anderson and seventh grader Megan Hilfer."
McIntire has been a Raider from the start and has been pitching since eighth grade.
She has developed seven pitches, which includes two fastballs (two and four seam), two change-ups (two and four seam), a curveball and screwball, which breaks right on the plate.
Her walk-to-strikeout ratio is terrific, heavily favoring her strikeout numbers by over double, as was apparent in the upset over Walker/Hackensack-Akeley in the second round, when she had 11 strikeouts.
"Carissa Adams will also be missed because she had a good bat for us," Blickenstaff said. "But I'm looking forward to my second year of coaching here, and now our younger players have good experience, as well as playoff experience."
"We'll be working on our defense and continue to work on our batting."
So even in defeat, the Raiders scored a victory as an emerging softball program for the future.
Sub-Section 6-1A semifinals in Menahga, Thursday, May 27.
(7) Lake Park-Audubon vs. (3) Menahga.
Raiders 000 000 0 - 0 3 1
Braves 001 002 x - 3 4 0
AB R H Bi
Ch. Raaen 3 0 1 0
C. Nelson 3 0 0 0
Ca. Raaen 3 0 0 0
C. McIntire 3 0 2 0
J. Swegarden 3 0 0 0
C. Adams 2 0 0 0
L. Gage 2 0 0 0
M. Anderson 2 0 0 0
K. Davis 2 0 0 0
Totals 23 0 3 0
AB R H Bi
K. Miller 3 1 1 0
J. Haataja 3 1 1 0
L. White 3 1 2 2
M. Miller 3 0 0 1
A. Pho 2 0 0 0
J. Skoog 2 0 0 0
E. Skoog 2 0 0 0
C. Butler 1 0 0 0
J. Melton 2 0 0 0
T. Cleveland 2 0 0 0
Totals 23 3 4 3
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k): LPA - McIntire (LP) 6-4-3-3-2-7...Mhg - White (WP) 7-3-0-0-0-14.