USA Curling Mixed Nationals: Connecticut gains final on last stone, faces upstart Wisconsin
WILLMAR — Perhaps the best way to describe the climatic ending to the semifinal round of the USA Curling Mixed National Championship is to say it went down to the last pitch on a 3-and-2 count with two out and two on in the 10th inning.
The pitch was the equivalent of a ball, walking home both the tying and winning runs.
With a rather large crowd at the Blue Line Arena looking on from the second deck points gave No. 2 seed Connecticut a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over No. 3 seed North Dakota early Friday evening.
The final stone, thrown by North Dakota Team Skip Kelby Smith, was close enough to be called a “strike,” but it only clicked one of the two red rocks in the inner ring. Its power was not enough to send either Connecticut rocks outside the scoring boundary. The yellow rock drifted left and outside the Home with Team Surka lead Becca Andrews scouring the ice pebbles just to make sure.
Before Kelby Smith delivered the hammer, or final rock of the End, Connecticut Skip Derek Surka put his last two rocks tight to the inner circle, crediting his sweepers Charissa Link and Becca Andrews.
The thrilling finish sends Connecticut against Wisconsin, which upset No. 1 seed Washington 9-2. The final and third-place matches are at 1 p.m. today at the Wlllmar Civic Center.
Team Sieg Washington had gone 8-1 in the round-robin which began last Saturday. With Skip Lyle Sieg in the cleanup spot and considered the top player in the tournament, most expected the semifinal to be a walk-through for the squad from Seattle.
But from the start, this was the Cheeseheads’ day. The Murrays took a point in the first and 3 more in the third end; so untypical of the Washington squad, they would never challenge.
Washington will meet the young North Dakota foursome today for bronze.
Beth Podoll, 16, said the match was a lot of fun “But I really wanted to win.” Her sister, Ann, 21, and 17-year-old Kyson Smith make up the rest of the team along with Kyson’s father, Kelby, who played brilliantly, experts agreed, with the exception of the final release.
Added the teenagaer Beth Podell: “This tournament has been a great time. The ice is great and the people in Willmar so welcoming and the volunteers so helpful.”