Softball: KoMets win second consecutive state title in dramatic fashion
NORTH MANKATO — Laura Kosberg's name was inadvertently left out of the state softball tournament program. So the Kasson-Mantorville junior took it upon herself to cement her name in state tournament history.
NORTH MANKATO — Laura Kosberg's name was inadvertently left out of the state softball tournament program.
So the Kasson-Mantorville junior took it upon herself to cement her name in tournament history.
Kosberg, who was batting .200 with no home runs this season entering the tournament, became the hero the KoMets needed on Friday.
She was inserted into the K-M lineup for the first time at the state tournament and put herself into the spotlight in the Class AA state championship game at Caswell Park. She said she found out she'd be in the lineup about 10 minutes before game time.
"I've learned I do my best when they just throw me in there and I don't have time to think about it," Kosberg said with a laugh. "I was very excited when (coach Jeff Fague) told me I was going to play. He told me to have some quality at-bats, go after the ball and do my best."
She snapped a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, crushing a solo home run to left-center field, her first of the season. Then she delivered one of the biggest hits in program history, a bases-loaded walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave the KoMets a 2-1 victory against Maple Lake.
"I wish I could say it was a brilliant move on my part," Fague said of putting Kosberg into the lineup. "It came down to, Laura is a very calm, cool person. That last at-bat, she was up there fouling off pitches and I kept telling her 'Nobody better than you,' and she'd smile.
"I knew she'd keep her head about her and the anxiety wouldn't build up in her."
KoMets pitcher Maddie Damon took care of the rest. The First Team All-Stater allowed just six hits and one earned run, while striking out 16 batters and walking none to earn her 117th career victory and help K-M (27-2) win its second consecutive state title.
Damon, a once-in-a-generation player who is headed to Purdue University in the fall, finished her record-setting high school career with 1,642 strikeouts.
No other pitcher in state history has topped 1,300.
"It's going to be tough to say goodbye" to the team's seniors, Fague said. "I don't know if anybody in Kasson will ever wear No. 6 (Damon's number) again, just out of respect, which is OK by me. We could put that jersey in the trophy case."
Maple Lake made the KoMets earn this championship. Chloe Callahan's two-out, two-strike RBI double in the top of the sixth tied the score 1-1 shortly after Kosberg had given K-M the lead.
Damon buckled down after that, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters she faced.
Irish pitcher Kennedy Goelz-Haney kept K-M at bay most of the game, throwing just 75 pitches through the first nine innings.
But she had to throw 19 in the bottom of the 10th inning, without recording an out.
K-M's McKenzie Hemann led off with a walk. Chante Thome followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that sneaked between two fielders and resulted in a single. Kendra Powers then attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Haney attempted to force Hemann out at third. Hemann slid in safely ahead of the throw, setting the stage for Kosberg.
Kosberg delivered at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat, driving a ground ball through a drawn-in left side of the Maple Lake infield.
"It was really exciting to watch," KoMets third baseman MiKayla Grant said of Kosberg's final at-bat. "She's a smart batter. To see her go through it pitch-by-pitch and find the one she wanted, and when she connected, it went. We had all the confidence in her."
K-M has gone 55-2 over the past two seasons in winning back-to-back state titles, the two losses coming by a total of three runs. The KoMets allowed just nine runs all season for a second straight year.
K-M 2, Maple Lake 1, 10 inn.
Maple Lake: Amber Klug 2-for-4, 1 R; Chloe Callahan 1-for-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI. Pitcher: Kennedy Goelz-Haney (LP) 9-plus IP 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Kasson-Mantorville: Maddie Damon 1-for-4; MiKayla Grant 1-for-4; McKenzie Hemann 1 BB, 1 R; Chante Thome 1-for-4; Kendra Powers 1-for-4; Laura Kosberg 2-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 R. Pitcher: Maddie Damon (WP) 10 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 16 K.