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The New Life Academy softball team wore the Section 4A gold medals for the fourth-straight season after pounding St. Bernard's, 8-1, in the championship game Tuesday afternoon. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.

NLA softball: Returning to State

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It's become as much a rite of spring as planting the garden or cleaning out the attic -- the New Life Academy girls softball team is returning to defend its championship at the Class A State Tournament after rolling over St. Bernard's, 8-1, in the Section 4A final on Tuesday night.

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"Overall, we're very happy," coach Mick Ramey said.

Statistics were not immediately available and will be updated when received.

Eagles pitcher Danielle Schmidt earned the victory by going the distance and -- along with her Eagles teammates -- putting out a few fires that popped up along the way.

"It was a little scary at first, but once we got in a groove we were fine," Ramey said.

St. Bernard's threatened to take an early lead in the top of the first inning, but were unable to plate either of the runners they put aboard before New Life struck back for all the runs they would need -- two -- in the bottom of the frame.

The Eagles tacked on two more in the third inning before the Bulldogs did push across a run and had two in scoring position with one out in the top of the fourth.

However, a strikeout/throwout double play from Schmidt to catcher Jesse Simonson to third baseman Natalie Schad squelched the threat and left New Life still in command with a 4-1 lead.

From there, the Eagles put it in cruise control over the next two innings as St. Bernard's never threatened again.

New Life put away the contest with a four-run sixth inning to take the seven-run cushion they would enjoy through the final, brief minutes of the matchup as the Bulldogs went down in order in the seventh to end the game.

"It was real fun," said NLA first baseman and No. 3 hitter Rebekah Schmidt, who was intentionally walked twice in the game. "I thought we hit well -- the other girls really came through."

Another tempered celebration ceremony followed the final out, as once again, the Eagles have bigger goals in mind -- three more victories and a second-straight Class A title.

"We're just taking care of business," Ramey said.

Following the game, three Eagles found out that they had been honored with Class A All-State laurels. Danielle Schmidt and shortstop Jenny Ramey were named to the first team, with Rebekah Schmidt earning a second-team nod.

New Life (19-6) will take the next week off as they prepare for their fourth-straight state appearance -- set to begin June 4 at 9 a.m. against the yet-to-be-determined Section 2A champ at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

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