Zumbrota-Mazeppa gets long-awaited win over Kasson-Mantorville for subsection title
PINE ISLAND — Zumbrota-Mazeppa has annually been among the best softball programs in the state over the past decade.The Cougars have also been caught in the same section as fellow state powers Winona Cotter and Zumbrota-Mazeppa.
PINE ISLAND — Zumbrota-Mazeppa has annually been among the best softball programs in the state over the past decade.
The Cougars, ranked No. 4 in the state in the most recent Class AA poll, have also been caught in the same section as fellow state powers Winona Cotter and Kasson-Mantorville.
There are a handful of players on this season's Z-M team who had never experienced a victory against K-M. Until Friday.
Alyssa Quam had two hits, including a single in the top of the sixth inning that drove in Morgan Olson with the only run of the Cougars' 1-0 victory against No. 1-ranked K-M in the West Subsection 1AA championship game.
"Alyssa has been a fantastic hitter all year," Z-M coach Kevin Nelson said. "It's fun to see her have this success. She's put a lot of time in and is just now getting healthy, after going through a stretch where she wasn't at full health. Now she's back pretty close to 100 percent."
The victory moves Z-M (18-2) into Tuesday's Section 1AA semifinal against east subsection champion Caledonia/Spring Grove.
"It's a great feeling," Quam said. "We just have to keep our heads up, stay focused, don't underestimate anyone ... play like we played (Friday)."
Z-M snapped a seven-game losing streak against K-M. The last time the Cougars beat the KoMets, K-M's dominant pitcher, Maddie Damon, was just an eighth-grader (May 13, 2011).
Damon was very good, as usual, on Friday, but so was Z-M's Morgan Olson. Both of the pitchers were First Team All-State selections last season and they showed why.
K-M had just four batters reach base against Olson, two on base-hits, one on a walk and one on an error. None of them advanced past second base. Olson recorded four strikeouts and needed just 82 pitches to end the game.
"That's as well as I've seen her pitch in a couple weeks," Nelson said of Olson. "She hasn't really been in a rhythm. She'd pitch once, then be off for a few days. Her best pitching is when she can pitch every-other day. She came in really focused and determined.
"She's a crafty pitcher. Damon will blow the ball by you. Morgan has to hit her spots and keep you off balance."
Damon also pitched a strong game. The only run she allowed was unearned, when Quam drove in Olson, who reached base on an error in the sixth inning.
Z-M took a different approach at the plate than it did against K-M in the regular season, when it struck out 17 times in a 6-0 loss. The Cougars struck out eight times against Damon on Friday and did a good job of fouling off pitches to extend plate appearances.
"We can't ask for much more," Olson said. "Our defense was unbelievable. We had a lot more confidence (at the plate). We've been working on going up and attacking. We have to believe in ourselves. We know we can hit it and we showed that."
Z-M also had a strong game defensively. Nelson credited senior catcher Tayler Mort and senior infielder Jackie Matuska for their leadership and defensive effort. Mort hit the ball hard twice for outs and picked a runner off first base for the second consecutive game.
K-M stays alive
K-M (20-2 overall) had to survive a second 1-0 game on Friday to advance to the Section 1AA final four.
Damon hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the KoMets a victory against third-seeded Stewartville. The Tigers closed their season at 15-9. Their final three losses came against Z-M (twice) and K-M, with two of those games decided by one run.
K-M has a tough road in front of it if it hopes to return to state and defend its Class AA championship. The KoMets will have to win four more games to win the section title. Z-M could do it with two.
"It will be a little different," K-M coach Jeff Fague said of coming through the elimination bracket. "You play with the idea that one bad inning could mean it's your last game. But we also know we can play with anyone in the state, we just have to play our game."
Stewartville advanced to face K-M by beating Byron 8-0 in an earlier loser-out game on Friday.
SECTION 1AA WEST FINAL
Z-M 1, K-M 0
No. 2 Zumbrota-Mazeppa: Alyssa Quam 2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI; Morgan Olson 1 R; Tara Matuska 1-for-3; Kelli Nordquist 1-for-3; Pitcher: Morgan Olson (WP) 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K.
No. 1 Kasson-Mantorville: Dana Rasmussen 1-for-2, 1 BB; Kendra Powers 1-for-2, 1 SB. Pitcher: Maddie Damon (LP) 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K.
Top-seeded teams fall in Section 1AA softball