The Detroit Lakes softball team moved within one victory of a first-ever trip to the state tournament in convincing fashion blowing out No. 1 Sartell-St. Stephen 11-4 in Sartell to advance to the championship game of Section 8AAA Tuesday, May 28.
“We just need to keep the momentum moving our way and keep scoring runs,” head coach Phil Kirchner said. “Madilyn pitched a heck of a game to a very powerful and strong Sabres team. Clean up our defense and a couple baserunning mistakes and we have a chance. We need to ride this out and keep it going offensively and defensively. It does not get any easier tomorrow.”
Madilyn Kirchner and Laura Prussia hit back-to-back one-out singles and scored on a Mercedez Bellanger double to give the Lakers a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning.
The lead was short-lived as the Sabres answered with three runs in the bottom half to tie the game.
Detroit Lakes’ bats exploded in the fourth as the Lakers took command of the game scoring five runs. Matteya Borah and Kirchner knocked in runs. Dakota Moran had a two-rbi base hit during the rally.
Sartell scored a lone run in the home half of the fourth to close the deficit to 8-4 but would not score again.
The Laker offense continued to onslaught in the sixth inning. Kirchner hit a one out single; Laura Prussia followed with a base hit to left. A Bellanger single scored Kirchner and Prussia and Bellanger came home on two Sabre errors for the 11-4 final.
Both teams stranded runners in the first inning of play. Sara Freeman opened the scoring with a base on balls and was brought home from first base on a triple by Laken Weaver for an early 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Detroit Lakes collected 17 hits to the Sabres’ eight. Kirchner led the team with four hits and picked up the victory striking out seven; Bellanger, Borah and Prussia each had three hits.
Coach Kirchner had to move his lineup around to replace missing Autumn Kulik at shortstop.
Sophomore Falyn Deboer was 1-4 at the plate and made a nice snag in left field moving into a starting role in the outfield.
Regular centerfielder Laura Prussia made a tough transition to shortstop in Kulik’s absence.
“We can only worry about things we can control and it is the next person up philosophy for us moving forward,” said Kirchner.
DL has won five straight games to improve to 16-6.
By winning, the Lakers gained home field advantage as the highest remaining seed in the championship bracket.
Sartell-St. Stephen (16-6) takes on Bemidji (15-8) Wednesday, July 29 at 4 p.m. in an elimination game. The winner gets the Lakers at 6 p.m. at Snappy Park and will have to beat DL twice to claim the section title.
The state tournament is held in North Mankato and will be played June 6-7.