NORTH MANKATO — Offense was hard to come by at Caswell Park in the Class AAA state title game. Winona and Becker combined for just one run through six innings, with the Winhawks’ Makayla Steffes and the Bulldogs’ Emma Eickhoff dominating in the circle.
But Eickhoff had the upper hand, and a late home run helped Becker secure its first state championship with a 4-0 win over Winona Wednesday afternoon.
After allowing a leadoff single in the first to Steffes, Eickhoff did not surrender another hit until the sixth. She sat down 14 in a row at one point, stumping Winhawk batter after Winhawk batter.
Save for a first inning RBI single, Steffes matched her through six. Though she scattered 11 hits, Steffes calmly worked out of jams, giving her offense a task of scoring just a handful of runs.
But that proved too difficult against Eickhoff. The closest Winona came was in the second inning, when the Winhawks (21-6) got runners to second and third with one out.
Eickhoff ended that threat, squashing Alma Johnson’s squeeze bunt attempt and getting Hannah Lee to fly out. And it was the only significant chance for Winona, which tallied just three singles for the day.
In the seventh, Eickhoff finally got some insurance. A pair of two-out singles gave way to Kurstyn Patnode, who walloped a three-run blast down the left field line to all-but-assure a championship with Eickhoff in the circle.
And she did that, sitting down Avery Engbrecht with her 10th and final strikeout of the game, spurring a dogpile in the circle as the Bulldogs (20-6) celebrated their first title.