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Softball: Perryman's 3-run homer lifts Park to state

Section 3AAAA champions, the third-ranked and 23-1 Park Wolfpack poses with their championship trophy after a 6-3 win over sixth-ranked Eastview in the section finals Friday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Park senior Delaney Young beats the throw to the plate to score a sixth run for the Wolfpack in the sixth inning Friday in the Section 3AAAA softball finals. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Section finals star Riley Perryman of the Wolfpack receives a heroic postgame hug from teammate Saren Croker. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Park teammates eagerly wait for Riley Perryman to come home as she ripped a three-run home run in the fifth inning to key the Wolfpack's 6-3 victory over Eastview Friday in the section softball finals. The win sent the Wolfpack to the state tournament for the third straight season. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 5
Park junior catcher Saren Croker runs down and tags out Eastview baserunner Brooke Tonnessen in the fifth inning as she is caught between third base and home. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 5 / 5

Riley Perryman's game-winning mind set was simple—put herself in a desperate situation and find a way out.

She did. And as a result the Wolfpack are going back to state.

Perryman ripped a three-run home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning to lift third-ranked Park to a thrilling 6-3 triumph over sixth-ranked Eastview Friday in the finals of the Section 3AAAA Tournament at Richfield Middle School.

Perryman's hit erased a 3-2 Eastview advantage and gave the Wolfpack momentum they were hold to the end.

"I told my team right before my at bat that we had to act like this was the last game of the season and we already lost the first game so we had to play again and that we were down by one. And I said we had to think that this was our last game ever and I guess that's how I approached the bat. I just had to make sure I made contact since we had runners in scoring position and I just lifted it and it went over.

"I knew right when I swung at it, that if that does not go over I'm going to be so disappointed," Perryman added. "I was so blessed that it did and so glad that we could finally get the W."

Park will take a 23-1 record into next week's state tournament in Mankato.

"I'm feeling so excited that my team — we put in so much work in practices and we work six days a week — and we deserved this," said Heather Degler, who had three singles for the Wolfpack. "Eastview gave us a run for our money. They put up a very good game and they should be proud of themselves.

"We just have to do what we do and we succeeded today," Degler added of Park's chances at state. "I think if we keep doing our thing, we'll do very well at state."

It will be the third straight trip to state for the Wolfpack. Two seasons ago, Park topped Forest Lake for the consolation championship. Last year the Wolfpack dropped a 13-2 decision to eventual champion Farmington in the first round, then lost 4-1 to Maple Grove in consolation play.

The 2018 state tournament will be played Thursday, June 7 and Friday, June 8 at Caswell Park in North Mankato. First-and second-round Class AAAA games will be at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on opening day. The top five teams will again be seeded and Park is a lock to be among the seeded teams. Park (23-1) earned the No. 1 seed in the Class AAAA tournament and will play Lakeville North (13-9) in the first round on Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. Championship semifinals and finals, as well as third-place and consolation finals will be played Friday.

Just three of the top 10 ranked teams qualified for the state tournament: No. 2 Forest Lake, No. 3 Park and No. 4 Buffalo. Teams going down in the section playoffs included top-ranked Prior Lake, No. 5 New Prague, No. 6 Eastview, No. 7 Chanhassen, No. 8 North St. Paul, No. 9 Maple Grove and No 10 Elk River.

"Anytime you win a section final to go to the state tournament is definitely satisfying," said Park coach Bob Loshek. "They're not always going to be pretty. You expect to see the two seed play well and did. Eastview played well, they battled."

"We found a way to get it done," Loshek added. "It's the thing that we've been able to do the last number of years in our program is find a way. We kept battling and kept battling and found a way to pull it off."

Park took a 2-0 lead into the top of the fourth, but Eastview scored two in the fourth and added another in the fifth for a 3-2 lead. That set the stage for Riley's heroics.

The Wolfpack added an insurance run in the sixth on a single by Delaney Young and a run-scoring double by Madi Meduna. Park relief pitcher Sam Fohrman and the defense then shut down the Lightning the rest of the way.

It was a game of thrills and chills. Both pitching staffs struggled a bit. Neither team's baserunning or defense was exceptionally sharp. But what it had was two powerhouse teams giving it everything they had for seven innings. And what it most of all was Park's ferocious hitting.

"We all know that we have to have each other's back no matter what happens," said Perryman. "We know that if pitchers put it in play we have to make good stops for them and they'll do the same things for us. "

Facing one of the best teams in the state, Park's offense was unstoppable. The Wolfpack rapped out 13 hits led by Perryman's home run and four RBIs. But Perryman was far from lonely swinging the lumber. Madi Meduna had a double, two singles and drove in a run. Degler had three singles, Saren Croker had a double, a single and a RBI. Corinna Loshek had two singles, Delaney Young and Shelby Schabacker had a single each.

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