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Senior Amanda Heidmann watches a strike during the Eagles 3-1 loss to New Ulm Cathedral in the Class A state title game on Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

New Life falls in state final

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It had to have been a moment of deja vu for the Eagles.

As the girls looked up at the scoreboard at the end of the Class A state title game at Caswell Park on Friday, they saw the same exact result from last year’s championship round -- a 3-1 loss, this time at the hands of New Ulm Cathedral.

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“It was pretty tough,” senior Amanda Heidmann said.

Tough because the Eagles (21-3) badly wanted a state crown, especially after falling to Blooming Prairie in last year’s title game.

“We only got second place,” Heidmann said. “I say only because we really wanted to get first place, but this is actually a really successful season.”

It was a season that saw New Life claim a new state record when it qualified for its ninth-consecutive state tournament after the Eagles won yet another Minnesota Christian Athletic Association championship.

“I’m still very happy with our season,” Heidmann said.

Through two games at the state tournament, it looked like the season was going to end with a championship. The Eagles didn’t allow a run in their quarterfinal or semifinal matchups, beating Norman County 11-0 before topping Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian 3-0 to advance to the final.

But in the title game, it was New Life who found runs hard to come by.

The Eagles crossed the plate just once despite recording 11 hits, as New Life stranded 11 runners on base.

“One or two key hits from us would have been key,” New Life coach Mick Ramey said.

But they never came. The Eagles lone run came in the fifth inning when junior Valerie Hohol knocked in senior Chloe Westlund to cut their deficit to 2-1. New Life generated another threat in the sixth, but it was deterred when freshman Hannah Tima was gunned down at the plate while attempting to score from second on a single by sophomore Krista Haglund.

Hohol was able to put the clamps on New Ulm Cathedral’s offense for much of the game, as she allowed just seven hits and struck out seven batters. But unlike New Life, the Greyhounds capitalized on their scoring opportunities with some timely hitting. All three of Cathedral’s runs came with two outs in the inning.

“I think the difference was stringing a couple of hits together,” Hohol said. “We were able to get on base and we were able to get into scoring position and we were just missing those one or two hits that could have scored them. I give [the Greyhounds] props, they were able to do that and they deserve to win if they can string those hits together.”

Hohol said this loss was easier to take than last year’s championship game defeat, because she knew she and her teammates left it all on the field.

“We just couldn’t quite make it over the hump to get those runs,” she said. “ But I know that every girl gave it their best shot, and that’s all I can ask from them is to give it their best shot. And if that’s not enough … we’ll just go home with a second place medal and be happy with it.”

The Eagles are early favorites to return to state in 2015 as they’ll lose just two seniors from this year’s squad in Heidmann and Westlund.

In a team huddle following the game, Ramey told his team he thought 10-straight sectional titles sounded pretty good, but that statement was met with some angst from his squad. Not everyone was quite ready to look that far ahead yet.

“It’s like ‘can I go home and take a nap [first]?’,” Hohol joked. "Then we can talk about the 10 section titles.”

All-Tournament team Hohol and Heidmann were both named to the All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the tournament.

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Jace Frederick
Jace Frederick has been the sports editor at the Woodbury Bulletin and the South Washington County Bulletin since May 2014. Frederick graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism.  Follow Frederick on Twitter @JaceFrederick 
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