NORTH MANKATO — Jade Krenik’s trip around the bases could not have been more clutch. She hustled out a bobbled grounder and reached on an error, tripping over the bag in the process. She advanced to second and third on a pair of singles and stood 60 feet from glory. And as Brenna Koeppel bounced a chopper to third, Krenik took off and slid to the plate.
Before the cloud of dust settled, the call rang out: Safe.
Krenik’s dash helped the St. Charles Saints take a 2-1 extra innings win from the Mounds Park Academy Panthers in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state softball tournament at Caswell Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The victory was St. Charles’ first in its first appearance at state, while Mounds Park suffered its only loss of the season.
It was a dramatic end to a low-scoring contest, one in which both sides had numerous chances to take control of the game but could not find a clutch hit. No. 3-seeded St. Charles (23-4) left five runners on base, while Mounds Park Academy (19-1) stranded 14.
The best chance prior to Krenik’s dash for the Saints came in the fourth. They put runners on the corners with one out for Eva Anderson. But she grounded to third, and Lauryn Delger was thrown out at the plate attempting to score. Then, Mya Omdahl was gunned down trying to take third behind the play, and the inning was quickly over.
The Panthers stranded at least two in scoring position twice. In the eighth, runners got to second and third for Rachel Agerter, but Koeppel struck her out on a 2-2 pitch to end the threat.
And in the third, Koeppel surrendered a long RBI single and walk to load the bases with the score tied at 1-1. But the sophomore right-hander recovered by striking out Dornseif and getting Campbell Heger to fly out.
Those were Koeppel’s only major blips, and though she didn’t have her best outing, she did enough to keep St. Charles in the contest as its bats struggled to mount much of a challenge to Springer’s pitching.
The Saints’ only break came in the first, thanks to Krenik. She singled in Makadyn Gust to briefly give St. Charles a one-run lead.
And then in the ninth, Krenik’s legs played hero and sent the Saints to the semifinals.