New Life Academy softball: Eagles off and running in sectionsThe New Life Academy softball team opened the Section 4A tournament at home last Friday and came away with a 5-0 shutout over Mounds Park Academy.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
The New Life Academy softball team opened the Section 4A tournament at home last Friday and came away with a 5-0 shutout over Mounds Park Academy. After receiving a bye for being the top seed, the Eagles moved into double-elimination play with the win and are among the final four remaining teams in Section 4A. Although the Eagles have already defeated two of their three remaining section rivals this year, NLA head coach Mick Ramey said he knows his young squad will need to play at its best if it is going to get back to the state tournament and attempt to defend their four consecutive titles.
“To win out in our section we will need to play well in all aspects of the game - pitching, hitting, and defense,” Ramey said. “Everyone who is left can beat anyone else in any given game, and it will likely come down to who makes the least defensive mistakes and who can get the big hits at critical times.”
To get to the section semifinals, the Eagles were able to muster enough offense against Mounds Park Academy to win comfortably 5-0. In the second inning, freshman catcher Malorie Giere led-off with a double to left field that was followed by a single from junior shortstop Nicole Johnson. Both runners were able to score on miscues by the MPA defense after a nice bunt by freshman outfielder Stacia Butwin. Then, in the third inning, the Eagles scored three more runs primarily by taking advantage of walks and errors, a sacrifice fly by freshman Val Hohol, and an RBI single from Butwin. The Eagles had multiple other chances to add to their lead but could not get the big hit when they needed to. However, the offense they did generate was more than enough for Hohol who pitched a complete game for the shutout victory.
Earlier in the week, the Eagles faced two very tough non-conference foes to help them prepare for the postseason. On Monday they traveled to take on Class AA school Visitation and lost a hard-fought 7-6 game. Down 6-0 entering the sixth inning, the Eagles scored four runs due in large part to singles by both sophomore center-fielder Chloe Westlund and Hohol, plus doubles by Johnson and sophomore Amanda Heidmann. After a 1-2-3 inning by Visitation in the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles then came right back in the top of the seventh to tie the contest 6-6 using singles off the bats of seventh-grader Kayla Binsfeld, Heidmann, Hohol and Giere. However, the tide turned quickly in the bottom of the inning as host Visitation led off with two consecutive hits and was able to win the game on an overthrow by the Eagles defense.
The Eagles then went to face Class AAA school South St. Paul on Thursday and lost 5-0 as they could not generate any consistent offense during the game. The Packers had just come off a 2-1 win against the No. 1-ranked team in the state, North St Paul. The Eagles had hits in six of the seven innings, but could not string anything together to get a runner across the plate. The Packers scattered five hits and took advantage of three Eagle errors to get the victory.
“We’ve taken some lumps along the way this year, but the goals we had for the season are still attainable if we play up to our capabilities” Ramey said. “In winning the conference we achieved goal No. 1, and we now move on to attempt to achieve our second goal - that being winning our section and returning to Mankato for the state tournament. It will be very difficult this year, but I like our squad and the fight they have in them. It should be an interesting next week.”
Quarter finals were held on Tuesday after the Bulletin went to the print. Win or lose, NLA will play again on Thursday at Visitation High School, with a 4 p.m. start. The winner will advance to the Section 4A finals at Hamline on Tuesday, May 29. If needed, there will be a second game on Thursday, May 31.