NORTH MANKATO — Lourdes went out and proved over the course of two days and three games at Caswell Park that it has the best Class AA softball team in Minnesota.

After winning a pair of close games on Thursday in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the second-seeded Eagles capped a dream season on Friday by rolling past top seed Norwood-Young America 10-1 in the Class AA state championship game.

“It feels like a dream, I don’t think it’s really registered yet,” Lourdes senior pitcher Anna Taylor said. “It’s always been a dream of ours and dream of mine to get here so I feel like I’m still dreaming.”

The Eagles had come so close to reaching state the past two years, each time losing in the section finals.

“I think the section championship was a monkey off our back,” Lourdes coach Becky Macken said.

Since last spring, the Lourdes players worked hard over the summer and leading up to this season. It paid off as the veteran squad, which features eight seniors, won a state title in the school’s first state softball tournament appearance.

“This feeling is unreal,” senior first baseman Katie Virgin added. “It’s surreal; we can’t believe we made it this far. I’m so proud of my team and all of the work they’ve put in. I’m so glad we were able to accomplish this.”

The Eagles were challenged by playing six Class AAA or AAAA teams during the regular season.

“And our section is so tough,” Macken said. “It’s like a state tournament, our section final. And I think it really prepared us, playing teams out of our class.”

A Section One team has now won the state championship in five of the past six seasons. And all of those titles have been by teams from the Hiawatha Valley League.

The Eagles had posted an 8-6 win over Annandale and a 2-1 win over Pipestone in the first two games at state. Lourdes then put in a dominant all-around effort to easily handle hard-hitting Norwood-Young America.

“These girls have been playing with confidence all year,” Macken said. “I didn’t think the score was going to be as (lopsided) as it was. I thought it would be closer, but we were able to hold their hitters down. Anna did a great job.”

The Raiders (25-3) entered averaging 11 runs per game, and had scored 21 in their first two state tournament games. But Taylor limited them to one run on five hits as she struck out nine and did not issue a walk.

“I think my rise (ball) was going pretty good, they were chasing it a little bit,” Taylor said. “And just the same thing I’ve been doing all year, offspeed mixed with some fast pitches.”

“She’s got good offspeed,” Macken said. “She’s got two types of changeups, which is a big deal. She has one that rolls up and she has one that rolls down. And her riseball is fabulous and she can pitch her curve out of the zone.

“She’s a very talented pitcher.”

Norwood-Young America’s only run came in the bottom of the fifth, which prevented the 10-run rule as Lourdes was leading 10-0 at the time.

“Anna is the backbone of this team,” Virgin said. “She’s worked incredibly hard to be the phenomenal pitcher that she is. She deserves all the credit; she’s an awesome pitcher.”

While Taylor was keeping the Raiders’ offense at bay, Lourdes was hitting the ball all over the park, which has been a trademark this season. The Eagles collected 16 hits and broke the game open by scoring seven runs in the third inning.

“I think our hitting,” Virgin said of a team strength. “I think throughout the lineup we’re really strong and I think everyone produced this tournament, which was really important. Everybody in the whole lineup gets hits and that really helps us produce runs.”

Freshman Elizabeth Pike, called up from the junior varsity with two games left in the regular season, excelled the entire tournament. She was 3-for-3 in the title game and had a two-run double in the seven-run third. She hit a lusty .778 (7-for-9) in three state games.

Margaret Rogers also added three hits, Virgin drove in three runs and sophomore Karin Hayford belted a solo homer.{div}”No weak links,” Taylor said. “We’re all there, we’re all supporting each other and we’re all doing something to get the team to where we are now.”{/div} {div} {/div} {div}Where the Eagles are now is at the top of Class AA. They close the season 25-3 and with memories to last a lifetime.{/div} {div} {/div} {div}”Being a senior definitely makes it sweeter,” said Taylor, whose twin sister Veronica is the team’s starting catcher. “It makes it a good end to my career.”{/div} {div} {/div} {div}”We have eight seniors and all of them have worked since they were so little and have dreamed of this moment so I’m so glad we were able to celebrate this together,” Virgin added.{/div}Lourdes 10, Norwood-Young America 1



No. 2 LOURDES: Margaret Rogers 3-for-5, 1 RBI, 1 R; Alyssa Ustby 1-for-3, 2 R; Katie Virgin 2-for-4, 3 RBI, 1 R; Ashley Krom 1 R; Anna Taylor 2-for-4, 1 RBI; Karin Hayford 1-for-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI; Elizabeth Pike 3-for-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R; Veronica Taylor 2-for-4, 1 RBI; Linda O’Connell 1 R; Claire Creighton 1-for-1, 1 R; Sonya Schroeder 1-for-2. Pitcher: Anna Taylor (WP) 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.

No. 3 NORWOOD-YOUNG AMERICA: Leah Crown 1-for-3, 1 2B, 1 R; Kennedy Pexa 1-for-2, 1 RBI. Pitchers: Sadie Erickson (LP) 2 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 K; Auna Hallquist 4 1/3 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.

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Guy covers a wide variety of high school, college and professional sports. He is a native of Rochester and has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Guy resides in Byron with his wife, children and numerous pets.

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