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Prep Softball: Willmar hands KMS 1st loss

WILLMAR -- After coasting through the bulk of its schedule this season, the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg softball team found itself on the wrong end of a blowout in Willmar Thursday.

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Willmar’s Lexi Kopacek delivers a fourth-inning pitch in the Cardinal’s 11-0 non-conference win over Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Thursday in Willmar. Kopacek struck out six and hit a two-run double, helping Willmar hand the Saints their first loss of the season. (www.wctrib.com/photostoreClay Cunningham | Tribune)

WILLMAR - After coasting through the bulk of its schedule this season, the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg softball team found itself on the wrong end of a blowout in Willmar Thursday.

Emma Culshaw scored three runs, Lexi Kopacek pitched a shutout and the Cardinals ended Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s bid for an undefeated season with an 11-0, five-inning non-conference rout.

After outscoring their opponents 248-34 through 19 games, the Saints entered Thursday at a disadvantage, as starting first baseman Taylor Rasmusson was out with an illness.

Her absence was felt early on, as throwing errors to first base in the second and third innings helped the Cardinals jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Willmar then put the game away in the fourth, sending 12 batters to the plate in a nine-run inning.

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Karina Rice drove in the first run of the frame before another Saints error brought home another.

Heidi Sellmann and Kopacek then blew things open with back-to-back two-run doubles before yet another KMS error led to two more runs.

Culshaw completed the scoring, coming around on a fielder’s choice.

After winning 17 of their 19 games by six or more runs, Saints coach Eileen Suter said the Class AAA Cardinals presented a stiffer challenge than her team was used to.

“What can I say? The competition we play isn’t quite as tough as what they see daily,” said Suter, whose team is ranked No. 2 in Class A.

Despite the class difference, Cardinals coach Shannon Cayler said such a performance was crucial for her team with the postseason just around the corner.

“We needed this,” said Cayler, who’d never beaten KMS. “We needed a good win. We needed to be competitive this week going into section play for the overall confidence of the team.”

Though not pleased with the effort, Suter isn’t expecting a hangover, as the Saints look to finally win an elusive state title.

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“It’s in the past,” she said of the Willmar game. There’s nothing wrong with a loss as long as you learn from it.”

After losing six of seven at one point, Willmar has now won four in a row to improve to 11-8.

Feeling the Cardinals have turned a corner, Kopacek, who struck out six with no walks, says team confidence “is already high and it’s only going to go up from here.”

Cayler agrees, saying she’s been impressed with the way her players pulled themselves out of a midseason tailspin.

“I’m really proud of the girls for fighting through when things weren’t going so well and knowing that they could come back out of it,” Cayler said.

Willmar hosts Alexandria at 5 p.m. today to close the regular season. Alexandria defeated Willmar 7-4 on May 5.

This was the Saints’ last game in the regular season. Their first playoff game is Tuesday at home against either Lac qui Parle Valley or MACCRAY in the Section 3A-North semifinals.

Willmar 11, KMS 0

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KMS (19-1)          000 00- 0 4 4

Willmar (11-8)    011 9x- 11 7 3

HITTING – KMS: MiKaylie Hagen 2-3; Dacotah Rohner 2-2 … Willmar : Karina Rice 2-3 r rbi; Jordyn Swoboda 1-2 r-2 rbi; Heidi Sellmann 1-3 r rbi-2; Lexi Kopacek 1-3 rbi-2; Hannah Johnson 1-1 r; Emma Culshaw 1-2 r-3; Grace Culshaw 0-1 rbi; Abygail Kienholz 0-3 r; Amanda Zuidema 0-1 r; Anna Backes 0-0 r

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - KMS: Samantha Gjerde (L) 4-7-11-5-2-6 … Willmar: Kopacek (W) 5-4-0-0-0-6

 

Related Topics: SOFTBALL
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