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Prep softball: KMS bid for state ends in semis

Tribune photo by Tom Larson KMS' Kalli Forsell hits a three-run home run in the first inning against Red Lake Falls, the big blow in the Saints' 5-1 win that propelled them into the Class A state semifinals Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

NORTH MANKATO — Seventy one wins and three losses in three seasons.

And yet, for the third time, a state championship has eluded the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg softball team.

Blooming Prairie pitcher Shelbi Swenson scattered five hits and struck out 12 Saints, sending the Awesome Blossums back to the Class A state championship game with a 1-0 win over the Saints in the semifinals Thursday night at Caswell Park.

“This was a tough one,” said Saints head coach Eileen Suter, whose teams have lost all three games the last three years in the state tournament. “But I told the girls this is just a small part of their lives. It hurts now but years from now they’ll look at what they did and be happy about it.”

The Saints, who finished fifth last year and third in 2011, will once again play for third place against Eden Valley-Watkins at 11 a.m. today at Caswell Park.

Like last year, when the Saints had trouble figuring out Cherry’s Shaina Novak, Swenson had them struggling, especially with her rise ball. Twice, with Saints runners on, Swenson got strikeouts to end the threats.

“She was pitching well and hitting her spots,” said Saints pitcher Erin Haglund, who allowed just one run on four hits while striking out six. “It was tough to get our timing down.”

“She threw a rise ball but it was also that we didn’t know what was coming,” KMS shortstop Sam Dunn said. “She was mixing speeds and putting it wherever she wanted it. We usually don’t see pitchers like her during the season.”

A KMS error with two outs in the first allowed Blooming Prairie’s Sydney Heiber, who singled to right field, to reach third. Swenson followed with a double to provide herself with the only run she’d need.

The Saints powerful lineup was tamed and the pressure to produce mounted as the innings ticked by.

“We just didn’t group our hits,” Suter said. “Some of our big hitters were over-swinging, trying to hit the ball out of the park. Then the nerves were up.”

KMS’ Alison Krieger had two hits and Courtney Olson, Sadie Sulier and Sam Gjerde also had hits. While the Saints lose a ton of production with the graduations of Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters Dunn, Haglund and Olson, Suter liked what she saw from her younger players. Krieger, a sophomore, had four hits in two games Thursday, Gjerde, an eighth-grader, had three hits and Sulier, a sophomore, had two. Sophomore Kalli Forsell and junior Shelly Syverson hit home runs in a 5-1 quarterfinals win over Red Lake Falls.

“It’s nice to see younger players like Sam Gjerde, Sadie and Alison come through and do well,” Suter said. “We lose some great players but it’s nice to know we have some young ones coming back who are really good.”

KMS 5, Red Lake Falls 1

The KMS softball team advanced to the Class A state semifinals with a 5-1 win over Red Lake Falls on Thursday at Caswell Park.

The Saints, 23-0, play the 2012 Class A runner-up, Blooming Prairie, at 7 p.m. today.

Kalli Forsell’s three-run home run in the first inning and Shelly Syverson’s solo homer in the second were the big blows for the Saints against Red Lake Falls.

Pitcher Erin Haglund allowed just one hit and struck out 10 to earn the victory.

KMS      320 000 0 — 5 10 1

RLF       010 000 0 — 1 1 3

HITTING – KMS: Alison Krieger 2-4, r-2, Sam Dunn 1-4, Erin Haglund 1-4, Courtney Olson 1-4, Kalli Forsell 1-3, rbi-3, Sadie Sulier 1-3, Shelly Syverson 1-3, rbi, Samantha Gjerde 2-3 … RLF: Kayla Schmitz 1-3

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) – KMS: WP-Erin Haglund 7-1-1-1-1-10 … RLF: LP-Kadie Amiot 7-10-5-4-0-5

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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