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NLA Softball: Eagles one step from State repeat

There have been 26 no-hitters in the 33-year history of the Minnesota State Softball Tournament -- Danielle Schmidt now owns three of them.

The New Life Academy pitcher tossed the third no-no of her state tourney career on a 5-0 victory over Silver Bay Thursday afternoon. The senior struck out 14, while walking three in the victory.

The triumph advanced the Eagles to a Class A championship game rematch with Maple Lake, the team that New Life defeated last June to earn the first State title in the history of the school.

Shortstop Jenny Ramey scored the only run the Eagles would need in the top of the first inning by hitting a leadoff single, advancing on a passed ball and a fielder's choice, then scoring on another passed ball to give New Life a 1-0 lead before Schmidt took to the rubber.

The longtime Eagles hurler put two aboard on walks before striking out the side in the first, allowing a runner to get to third before extinguishing the threat. Silver Bay would not come so close to scoring again in the six frames to follow.

New Life added three insurance runs in the fifth inning to all-but put the game away by scoring the trio of tallies with two outs as Ramey, third baseman Natalie Schad and second sacker Katie Stodolka all came home to give NLA a commanding 4-0 advantage.

For good measure, the Eagles plated one more runner as Ramey walked, advanced on a wild pitch, stole third and a notched the Eagles' final score of the day on a throwing error to bring the count to its would-be final five-run differential.

Schmidt allowed her third and final walk of the contest to lead off the seventh, but followed that up with her 14th K of the matchup before Silver Bay lined into a double play to make it official.

New Life advances to the state championship contest for the third consecutive season and will again take on Maple Lake.

The last time the Eagles faced the Irish, Schmidt hurled the second no-hitter of her State career as New Life earned its school's inaugural State honors in a 3-0 victory 364 days ago.

Maple Lake enters this year's final with a 23-3-1 record to New Life's 19-6 mark, yet only two of NLA's losses have come to Class A competition. The seventh-ranked Irish defeated No. 2 Wabasso and unranked Sacred Heart to get to the title game. New Life, who -- through an uncanny sense of oversight -- were unranked in the last Minnesota High School State Coaches Association poll, yet took down the No. 1-ranked Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in their State opener before dropping unranked Silver Bay.

The Irish and Eagles will face off in the last Class A game of the season at 1 p.m. in North Mankato's Caswell Park.