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NLA Softball: Eagles win State opener in 11

New Life Academy pitcher Danielle Schmidt broke a state-tournament record with 32 strikeouts in the Eagles 11-inning, 3-2, victory over No. 1-ranked Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the opening round of the Class A State Tournament on Thursday morning. Bulletin File Photo.

The New Life Academy softball team cleared quite possibly the largest hurdle they will face in search of earning back-to-back Class A State championships as the Eagles toppled No. 1 Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, 3-2, in 11 innings in the State Softball Tournament opener at Caswell Park in North Mankato this morning.

Senior pitcher Danielle Schmidt set a state-tournament record by striking out 32 batters and went the distance in out-dueling LC-WM's Whitney Johnson by allowing just two runs on six hits in the one-run victory.

Johnson, who had struck out all 21 batters she faced twice in regular-season games this year, K'd 18 Eagles in the battle of two of the top hurlers in the state.

However, the morning belonged to Schmidt, who also plated Katie Stodolka with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning on a single with two on and nobody out that drove home the second baseman and sent the Eagles to the semifinals.

The Eagles had led 2-0 after taking the lead in the first inning on a leadoff home run by shortstop Jenny Ramey and adding an unearned run scored by Stodolka in the fourth.

However, LC-WM tied the game at 2-all in the sixth on a two-run homer by shortstop Amber Hohenstein and the game went to extra innings after both teams went quietly in the seventh.

Each team advanced runners into scoring position a total of four times, with both New Life and LC-WM getting a runner as close as third base in the ninth and tenth innings, respectively, but could not push the deciding run home until the Eagles finally decided matters in the 11th with three-straight hits from Stodolka, first baseman Rebekah Schmidt and Danielle Schmidt.

New Life now faces Silver Bay, who also entered the tournament with a 19-6 overall record, in the Class A semifinals today at 3 p.m. Silver Bay defeated Chatfield -- who came into the day with a 20-5 mark -- by a score of 9-2 in their opening game.

If the Eagles are able to defeat their northern rivals, they will play for the Class A title at 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon at Caswell. A loss will drop NLA into the third-place game, to be played two hours earlier.