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Section softball: Chatfield knocks off Cannon Falls twice to punch its ticket to the Class AA state tourney

The Gophers received some help from an old friend at Wednesday's practice and it proved dividence for a group that was confident heading into Thursday.

Chatfield, Cannon Falls Section 1AA softball championship
Chatfield celebrates after defeating Cannon Falls during the second Section 1AA softball championship game on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Todd Park in Austin. Chatfield defeated Cannon Falls 11-0, advancing them to State.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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AUSTIN — Despite needing to win twice in a row against a team that had just beaten it, the confidence for the Chatfield High School softball team never wavered.

In fact, both coach Jerry Chase and standout pitcher Claire Springer predicted the Gophers would knock off Cannon Falls twice after the Gophers beat Zumbrota-Mazeppa to keep their season alive on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Gophers backed up that prediction.

Chatfield was able to get to Bombers' standout pitcher Abby Breuer, and Springer pitched masterfully as Chatfield got its revenge with wins of 9-1 and then 11-0 in six innings, in the Section 1AA championship games on Thursday at Todd Park.

Chatfield punched its ticket to the Class AA state tournament on June 9-10.

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Next stop: Caswell Park, North Mankato, where the Gophers will make their first state appearance since 2009.

"This just feels amazing," senior catcher Peyton Berg said. "We all knew we could do it because we've worked so hard."

Chatfield, Cannon Falls Section 1AA softball championship
Chatfield’s Brynn Irish and Peyton Berg celebrate after defeating Cannon Falls during the second Section 1AA softball championship game on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Todd Park in Austin. Chatfield defeated Cannon Falls 11-0, advancing them to State.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The Bombers beat the Gophers 4-2 in the Section 1AA winner's bracket on Tuesday, with Breuer allowing just four hits and the Bombers using a four-run fourth that saw Springer uncharachteristically hit two batters and walk another with the Gophers leading 2-0.

Chatfield once again got to Breuer early on Thursday, scoring single runs in the first three innings — highlighted by an Alexis Hinckley second inning solo home run — in Game 1. The Gophers then scored five runs — four unearned —in the second inning in Game 2. But this time, Springer never lost her mojo.

The junior right-hander kept the Bombers off-balance all night, spotting her off-speed and fastball right where she wanted to. Springer threw 12 shutout innings, allowing just five total hits between the two games.

"I was confident today," Springer said. "I had a good feel for my pitches. I mean, I did hit a girl with my rise ball but that was it."

Chatfield, Cannon Falls Section 1AA softball championship
Chatfield’s Jaiden Zimmerman throws a pitch during a Section 1AA softball championship game against Cannon Falls on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Todd Park in Austin.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

She didn't have to be perfect as the Gophers' bats were barreling up against Breuer throughout the two games.

Breuer had stifled the Gophers for just two runs on four hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings on Tuesday.

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But the Chatfield offense looked like a different group on Thursday, thanks in part to a special participant in Wednesday's practice.

Former Chatfield standout and Jerry Chase's daughter, Lexi Chase, threw batting practice on Wednesday to help the Gophers get a better feel for Breuer. The Iowa Lakes Community College and future Northern State University pitcher threw plenty of gas along with riseballs and screwballs to get in preparation for Thursday.

It did the trick.

The Gophers were confident, attacking Breuer early in counts and making hard contact against the Upper Iowa University commit, who could very well face Lexi Chase next season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

"We all came out swinging right away," Berg said. "She usually pitches first pitch strikes, so we were ready for that. And I feel our first hit set the tone for the game."

And although there were times the Cannon Falls defense didn't help her out — like the second inning that saw two errors and a dropped third strike result in four unearned runs — but the consistent hard contact was just too much. Breuer was charged with 18 runs allowed in 9 2/3 innings.

"They really barreled Abby up today, holy smokes," Cannon Falls coach Tom Langfeldt said. "Hats off to them. They fully deserved to win these two games. We came out so tight that first game, which I didn't expect, because this team hasn't played tight all year. It is what it is. Chatfield is a great and I mean great team."

Chatfield, Cannon Falls Section 1AA softball championship
Cannon Falls’ Abigail Breuer throws a pitch during a Section 1AA softball championship game against Chatfield on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Todd Park in Austin.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

For the Bombers, they finished one win shy of the program's first state tournament. Yet, it's a season that was still more than a memorable one.

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"I was talking with the girls that if I would have told them before the first practice that we would be one game away from state would you take it?" Langfeldt said. "Kayley Frenette said, 'Well, I probably would have laughed at you.'
"But it's a great group of kids. The most tight-knit group I have ever coached. You are talking 40 years of coaching."

Meanwhile, the Gophers now await their fate. They should receive a top five seed in the eight-team state tournament. But for now, they will enjoy this one.

"This is a great group of girls," Chase said. "They don't pout or anything. They had a good mindset today. They had fun and are enjoying it now."

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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