Remsen St. Mary’s softball earns repeat trip to state with win over Akron-Westfield
REMSEN — For the second year in a row, the Remsen St. Mary’s softball team has earned a trip to the state tournament. The Class 1A No. 5 ranked Hawks beat No. 12 ranked Akron-Westfield by a 6-2 score in Monday’s regional final.
“It’s awesome, it’s unbelievable,” RSM’s Carmindee Ricke said after the win. “I’m so excited to go with my friends and teammates. It’ll be so fun.”
The repeat trip to state comes after the Hawks beat the Westerners last season in the regional final game. The two teams split their regular season contests this year by one-run scores.
Akron-Westfield got out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as they capitalized on some errors in the field by RSM. The Hawks got an A-W player in a rundown situation between first and second, but couldn’t get the out. Meanwhile, the lead runner was able to score. Chloee Colt reached on another error which allowed the second run to score.
“We told our team that we’ve got to start hot and we did,” A-W Head Coach Victor Mena said.
The Hawks quickly put those errors in the rear view mirror as they put together an inning at the plate which saw four runs score. Claire Schroeder reached on a single and stole second base. A walk to Halle Galles and an error which allowed Mya Bunkers to reach then loaded the bases. Ricke then came through with a base hit to left field which allowed a run to score.
“I just knew I had to do my job and I couldn’t swing too hard. Just put the ball in play and make the defense work and it worked I guess,” Ricke said.
After a conference at the circle by the Westerners, A-W was able to get a force out at home on the next batter. Then, Octavia Galles put the Hawks in front with a single which drove in a pair of runs. Galles, who was the only RSM player without a hit in the team’s 12-0 win over Kingsley-Pierson in the semifinal round, was happy to come through in a big spot in this game.
“I’m just glad I could finally score some for our team,” Galles said. “It was a big relief.”
Gracyn Schroeder added an RBI base hit later in the inning to extend the lead to 4-2.
“To come back and score the runs was just huge,” RSM Head Coach Monte Harpenau said. “I think we’ve given up six runs twice this year, so to score four right there, we thought we’d need a couple more, but you feel pretty good with four runs with Marina throwing.”
After the flurry of runs in the first inning, the pitchers and their defenses took over for the next few innings. The Westerners went down in order in each of the next four frames.
“There was one inning where he had like five total balls and so it was a quick inning there and the next inning was another quick inning,” Mena said. “It just felt like we never got back into a groove and I think that was part of it and then we couldn’t really get a runner on base until the end.”
Marina Cronin settled in as she finished with three strikeouts in a complete game effort in the circle. She said it was nice to come back out for the second inning with a two-run cushion rather than a two-run deficit.
“It helped me focus more on throwing strikes and my defense could field the balls, have my back and keep us ahead,” Cronin said.
Harpenau said one pitch has been particularly effective for Cronin lately.
“Her changeup’s been really good these last 8-10 games, I don’t know how long it’s been, but her changeup’s been really good and she didn’t have that early in the season,” Harpenau said. “Her changeup was ok, but she’s really gotten it down right now. The biggest thing is the location.”
The Westerners tried going with left-hander Megan Meinen against the left-handed batters and right-hander Emma Rolfes against the right-handed batters in the first inning, but abandoned that approach the rest of the game. Rolfes kept the Hawks quiet the next three innings before RSM added on runs in the fifth and sixth. She finished the game with six runs allowed, two of which were earned, while striking out four in 5 2/3 innings.
Ricke reached on an infield single in the fifth, stole second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on an errant throw home after a popup on the infield.
Back-to-back walks began the RSM half of the sixth. Rolfes was nearly able to get out of that inning unscathed with a bunt third strike out and a strikeout, but a dropped third strike allowed Halle Galles to reach and another pitch which got past the catcher allowed a run to score.
Akron-Westfield got two runners aboard with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Gracyn Schroeder made a nice running grab at the fence in foul territory in right field to record the final out.
Akron-Westfield finishes the season with a 24-6 record in their first season with Mena as coach.
“This season, we really showed resiliency,” Mena said. “I know there are expectations from the community and all that stuff. I think we pushed everything to the side and we just focused on what we can do. We grew every single day and I could not be more proud of this team.”
Mena also thanked his seniors, Megan Meinen, Chloee Colt and Taryn Wilken, for their dedication to the program.
“Our seniors really helped me out this year big time,” Mena said. “They’ve been part of the program for a very long time and they know what to do and I really think they left a good mark on this team.”
Remsen St. Mary’s will take a 27-2 record into the state tournament. It is the school’s fifth overall state tournament appearance and the second in a row which Cronin said should help the team.
“As a team it will make us less nervous,” Cronin said. “I know we’ll want to win a lot more because we know what’s down there now.”
RSM earns the No. 4 seed and will face No. 5 seed Southeast Warren (23-4) in a state quarterfinal game which will be played at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 19 in Fort Dodge.