Win No. 803 will have to wait; Bowlin's pursuit on hold after pair of hard fought losses

The longtime Ramblers coach will coach next season where he will go for Minnesota softball's all-time mark of 803 career wins.

La Crescent-Hokah, Winona Cotter Subsection 1AA softball
Winona Cotter head coach Pat Bowlin coaches during a Subsection 1AA softball game against La Crescent-Hokah on Thursday, May 25, 2023, at City Park in St. Charles.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

ST. CHARLES — For Pat Bowlin, win No. 803 will have to wait.

The longtime Winona Cotter softball coach had the opportunity to become Minnesota's all-time leader in career prep softball victories, but the Ramblers' opponents on Thursday had other ideas.

The Ramblers fell to St. Charles 6-2 in the Sub-Section 1AA finals, before dropping a 2-1 contest to La Crescent-Hokah in an elimination game to keep Bowlin tied with retired New Ulm Cathedral coach Bob Mertz at 802. Those two are the only ones to reach 800 career wins in the state of Minnesota.

After a shaky first inning, Brenna Koeppel was electric in the circle, while Makadyn Gust had two extra base-hits, including a two-run home run.

The Ramblers were right there in both games.

They took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first against top-seeded Saints, before the St. Charles offense and ace Brenna Koeppel found their groove.


Against the Lancers, Cotter had a number of chances but incredible defense from the Lancers was the difference after La Crescent-Hokah scratched out a pair of early runs.

"You see enough diving catches," Bowlin said with a laugh. "They made some great plays and I tip my hat to them. ... They really earned the win, primarily with their defense."

Center fielder Ava Dahl made a pair of impressive running catches to rob Cotter of extra bases, including in the sixth when she sprinted to the left-center gap to take away a Mallory Biesanz potential lead-off double.

La Crescent-Hokah defeated Winona Cotter 2-1 in a Subsection 1AA softball game on Thursday, May 25, 2023, at City Park in St. Charles.

"I don't think any other centerfielder gets that," Lancers' coach Eric Kiesau said.

She wasn't the only one that made great plays.

Erin Fortsch made a diving grab in right field to rob a potential one-out base runner in the seventh and the Lancers didn't record an error, which was also the key. Now, they will play Zumbrota-Mazeppa at 5 p.m. Thursday at Austin Todd Park in an elimination game.

"They knew what was at stake and they came through," Kiesau said. "We've had confidence all year that we could get to this point and they're just really stepping up. We've got a great group of senior leaders they've got nine seniors and every one of them played a part today."

La Crescent-Hokah, Winona Cotter Subsection 1AA softball
La Crescent-Hokah’s Molly Bills (14) claps from second base after a hit during a Subsection 1AA softball game against Winona Cotter on Thursday, May 25, 2023, at City Park in St. Charles.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Meanwhile, the Ramblers season ends with a 16-5 overall record and with Bowlin at 802.


Yet, Bowlin has already assured the Cotter faithful he will be back next season to coach in what will be his 40th season.

"I'm coming back next year," said Bowlin, who also has over 650 wins as Cotter's girls basketball coach. "I love coaching as much as I ever have. I love the challenge of it. Every year is kind of a new crew and try to bring the best out of them. I really enjoy it. As long as my health is there, I'm going to keep coaching. I love it and I'll try to make some memories next year."

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
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