Eagles come up just short of signature victory
Top-ranked Jefferson softball team beats AV
An upset was brewing for most of Monday afternoon’s softball game between Apple Valley and Bloomington Jefferson. The Eagles needed just four more outs for a potentially program-changing victory.
But that’s when No.1-ranked Jefferson got its offense in gear. The bases were empty with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, but the Jaguars quickly loaded them with three consecutive singles. Nicole Tobon then lifted a fly ball over the right-field fence for a grand slam that turned Jefferson’s one-run deficit into a three-run lead. The Jaguars went on to win 6-2, and Apple Valley continued to look for the victory that would make the Eagles a team to fear in the upcoming Section 3AAA playoffs.
Winning games has not been a problem for the Eagles, who are 11-6 overall and 6-5 in the South Suburban Conference. But they continue to look for that signature victory, one that tells their own players – and everybody else – that they have a shot against the best teams in the state.
Apple Valley is 1-5 against the four teams ahead of the Eagles in the SSC standings and 5-0 against the five teams that trail them.
Jefferson defeated Apple Valley 12-2 in the first game between the teams April 11, so in some ways Monday’s game was a step forward.
“I’m not really into moral victories,” Apple Valley coach Carla Christiansen said, “but Jefferson plays with an awful lot of confidence, and maybe we had them on their heels for a little while.”
More importantly, Christiansen said, the players weren’t satisfied with merely coming close to beating a strong opponent.
“We could tell they weren’t happy with it, and I think that’s a good thing,” the coach said. “We need them to come back and say, ‘We know we can win.’”
Senior pitcher Loryn Charbonneau was ill the day of the Jefferson game but had to step into the circle because the Eagles’ backup pitcher was injured. Jefferson had 12 hits but left 11 runners on base as Charbonneau made big pitches when she needed them for the first 5 2/3 innings.
The Eagles made four errors and were lamenting a foul popup that dropped and allowed a Jefferson hitter another chance to reach base, which she did. While the play did no immediate damage, Christiansen pointed out that if it had been made, Tobon, a .564 hitter, might not have come to the plate in the sixth inning with the bases loaded.
“If we make one play, they don’t get that at-bat,” the coach said. “Especially in our conference, it’s literally one pitch, one play, that can make the difference.”
Apple Valley had just two hits against a Jefferson team that Christiansen said might have the South Suburban’s three best pitchers. “We did take advantage of the opportunities we had,” the coach added.
Seniors such as Charbonneau and infielders Hailey Casperson, Kati Erb and Julia Gerlach are key players for an Apple Valley team that also has four ninth-graders and an eighth-grader.
As a group, the team is hitting well, Christiansen said.
“Our team average is as high as it’s been in a while,” she said. “We have five kids batting over .300. We want to improve our situational hitting, but I like that our kids are becoming students of the game.”
The loss to Jefferson deflated the Eagles for a while, but “maybe that means we just have to wait until the playoffs,” Christiansen said.
The Eagles defeated Red Wing 13-3 in five innings and South St. Paul 10-0 in six innings during their round-robin tournament Saturday at Apple Valley High School. Anoka also was in the four-team tournament but asked that its game with Apple Valley be cancelled because it would have put the Tornadoes one over the state maximum of 20 regular-season games.
The Lightning improved to 7-4 in the South Suburban Conference and 10-5 overall after defeating Lakeville South 3-1 on Monday afternoon. Paige Palkovich was the winning pitcher, her third victory of the season.
Eastview went 1-1 in the rain-shortened Great 8 Invitational on Saturday at Johnny Cake Ridge Park. After a 3-1 loss to Hopkins in the opening round, the Lightning defeated Hermantown 7-3 in the consolation semifinals. The final round of the tournament was rained out.
Batting leaders for the Lightning include Melissa Barry (.549), Sophie Runing (.500) and Ari Hipolito (.476).
One ray of light in an otherwise frustrating season for the Wildcats was their 10-2 victory over Winona Cotter in the consolation semifinals of the Great 8 Invitational tournament Saturday at Johnny Cake Ridge Park.
That was Eagan’s first victory after opening the season with 13 consecutive losses. Eagan was 1-14 overall after losing to Prior Lake 12-0 in a South Suburban Conference game Monday afternoon.
Infielder Abby Brinkmeier is one of the South Suburban Conference’s top hitters with a .521 average through last week’s play.