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Joyous teammates swarm around Brittany Nissen (9) at home plate after the Ridgewater College freshman scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday's third and deciding game. The win gave the Warriors the Region 13A title on an RBI-double by Jenna Kincade.

College softball: Warriors walk off, head to nationals

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WILLMAR -- The Warriors conquered the long and winding road back to the national tournament on Friday.

Ridgewater College (34-10) climbed out of the elimination bracket, belting Anoka-Ramsey 19-0 and then whipping Rochester Community and Technical College twice, 23-1 and 3-2, to gain a seat at the NJCAA Division III table for the sixth time in eight years.

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The championship win came in dramatic fashion at mid-afternoon under overcast skies after playing two games in full sun.

Trailing 2-0 after five innings, the Warriors scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score.

Then in the seventh, No. 6 hitter Brittany Nissen led off with a sharp double, followed immediately by a double by Jenna Kincade that took the same shallow arc to the right-center fence to chase home Nissen with the game-winning run.

That triggered a wild celebration at home plate.

"I wasn't worried (about having to win three straight)," said sophomore third baseman Aimee Johnson. "We'd beaten them pretty good in the regular season. We were a little anxious at the start, but we came back. It's fun to be going back to Rochester."

The three-day tourney starts Thursday.

The entire team and head coach Todd Thorstad appeared to relish the challenge of conquering an uphill road to get back to nationals.

"We hit the heck out of the ball in the first two games," he said. "All through the tourney we got good defense and Andrea Krause did a great job when we needed it at the end."

Krause gave up a pair of runs in the first but fired bb's the rest of the way, retiring the last 13 Yellow Jackets in order.

Ridgewater hitters couldn't get going against the Jackets' fine little southpaw Laura Carnell until late in the final, even taking some bad swings at high pitches.

"She made me mad," said Nissen. "She'd struck out enough of us. It was time to make her pay. I just went up to the plate fired up with the encouragement of my teammates."

Elimination final

Ridge 19, An.-Ramsey 0

In contrast to Thursday, the wind was blowing out at College Field and Kari Shipman and Aimee Johnson both put it to use striking grand-slam homers to the deepest park of the ball park. Shipman also had three doubles in four at bats.

Brittany Nissen gave up three singles and didn't walk a batter for the five-inning win.

Ridgewater 610 82 -- 19 16 0

Anoka-Ramsey 000 00 -- 0 3 6

HITTING - Ridgewater: Kari Shipman 4-for-4, 4 runs, grand-slam, 3 2b's; Haley Springer 2-for-3, 2 runs; Brooke Carlson 3-for-3, 2 runs, 2b; Brittany Nissen 1-for-4, Khia Lohse 1-for-2, Brenna Holwerda 1-for-2, Aimee Johnson 3-for-4, 3 runs, grand-slam ... Anoka-Ramsey: Alecia Cole 1-for-2, Becca Hass 1-for-2, Ellie Herd 1-for-2

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Ridgewater: Brittany Nissen (W) 5-3-0-0-0-2 ... Anoka-Ramsey: Khloe Greinger (L) 5-16-19-8-2-2

Championship

Game One

Ridgewater College 23, Rochester 1

The offensive fireworks continued under a blue sky with a north wind.

Brooke Carlson, the freshman from KMS, knocked in eight runs. She hit a bases-loaded triple in the second, a two-run single in the third and a three-run double in the fourth.

Aimee Johnson, the slick fielding third-baseman from Granite Falls, went 4-for-4 with three doubles and five RBIs.

Andrea Krause went the first two innings and Shannon Heitz threw the last three for the win.

Ridgewater 099 50 --23 17 1

Rochester 001 00 -- 1 4 3

HITTING - Ridgewater: Kari Shipman 0-for-3, 3 runs; Haley Springer 1-for-3, 4 runs, rbi; Brooke Carlson 3-for-4, 4 runs, 2b, 3b, 8 rbi; Andrea Krause 1-for-3, 2b, rbi; Aimee Johnson 4-for-4, 3 2b's, 2 runs, 5 rbi; Brittany Nissen 2-for-3, 3 runs, 2b, 2 rbi; Jenna Kincade 2-for-4, 2b, rbi; Jen Storck 2-folr-2, Khia Lohse 1-for-1, Datrianna Jensen 1-for-3, rbi ... Rochester: Jenica Gerber 2-for-2, run, 2b; Jordan Nelson 1-for-2, rbi; Maddie Lewison 1-for-2, 2b

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Ridgewater: Andrea Krause 2-2-0-0-1-2, Shannon Heitz (W) 3-2-1-1-0-1 ... Rochester: Laura Carnell (L) 2-7-9-8-4-2, Ashley Olson 3-10-15-9-7-3

Game Two

Ridgewater College 3, Rochester 2

Carnell, who got hammered in the second inning of the previous game allowing seven hits and four walks, came out a different pitcher in the decider. She showed the same mastery displayed in throwing a shutout on Thursday to drive Ridgewater into the elimination bracket.

Meantime, the Yellow Jackets came out swinging scoring two runs in the top of the first off Andrea Krause on three hits. Kasey Bode's single provided Rochester a 2-0 lead that would stand through five innings.

In the bottom of the sixth, Carnell got the first out but leadoff hitter Kari Shipman employed her speed to leg out a bloop infield single. Haley Springer drew a walk, the only one Carnell issued.

Brooke Carlson hit a liner down the right field line to the fence scoring Shipman and sending Springer to third. Krause followed with a sac fly to right field tying the game 2-2.

Krause put the Jackets down in order retiring the last 13 Rochester hitters in order.

First baseman Brittany Nissen, a freshman out of BOLD, lashed a double to right-center to open the bottom of the seventh.

Jenna Kincade, the freshman DH from Paynesville, had flied out twice,

This time she took a 1-and-1 pitch and drove it to the right-center gap allowing Nissen to score standing up.

"I just wanted to get a single," she said. "When the ball took off I was just thinking please, please don't catch it."

The two first-inning runs were the only runs Krause (18-3) allowed in four tournament appearances, a total of 17 innings. She walked one and fanned seven in the final.

"I was nervous at the start being it was for the championship," said Krause, a sophomore from Bloomington. "I just needed some time to settle in."

Rochester 200 000 0-- 2 5 2

Ridgewater 000 002 1 --3 6 1

HITTING - Rochester: Jenica Gerber 1-for-3, Rachel Tate 1-for-3, Kasey Bode 2-for-3, 2 rbi; Ashley Olson 1-for-3 ... Ridgewater: Kari Shipman 1-for-3, Brooke Carlson 2-for-3, 2b, rbi; Andrea Krause 1-for-2, SF rbi; Brittany Nissen 1-for-2, 2b, sac; Jenna Kincade 1-for-3, 2b, rbi

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Rochester: Laura Carnell (L) 6-6-3-3-1-3 ... Ridgewater: Andrea Krause (W) 7-5-2-2-1-7

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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