Raider softball team will play Prior Lake in opening round of state tournament
It didn't take long for the Hastings High School softball team to establish its dominance in the section title game against Rochester Mayo.
Hastings' first batter of the game, Brit Robinson, hit a home run over the left field fence.
Later that inning, it was Jenelle Trautmann's turn. She hit a home run to left field, too.
"That was pretty awesome," Hastings coach Dean Robinson said.
The Raiders went on to win, 3-2, to advance to the state tournament for the third consecutive year.
Hastings has a 21-3 overall record, and has won 17 of its last 18 games. The strong play, and the team's great hitting as of late, prompted Robinson to elect to be the visiting team against Mayo. That meant Hastings batted first, and the strategy apparently paid off for the Raiders.
"If you are a good hitting team, it sets the tone right away," Robinson said. "If you can score runs right away, it can kind of deflate the other team. You get a lot of strange looks by the other coaches and umps, but there aren't too many games that are won in the bottom of the seventh."
Robinson was nearly proven wrong on that point. The Raiders held a 2-0 lead going into the top of the seventh inning. Marissa Holmes doubled and advanced on a wild pitch before coming home to score on a single by Stef Wical.
That run proved to be crucial. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Mayo got two runs and had a runner on second base.
A Mayo player hit a blooper into left field. Lisa Kranz, the leftfielder, came racing in and fielded the ball after it hit the ground. The Mayo runner on second tried to advance to third, but Kranz came up firing and threw out the tying run at third base for the final out of the game.
"It was a little intense there in the seventh inning," Robinson said. "That was definitely a heads-up play by Lisa. She was definitely hustling in. She just grabbed the ball and threw it to third and we made the play."
Treya Connell pitched and got the win for the Raiders.
She struck out five batters and didn't walk a batter.
"They had a couple hard hits against her, but most of them were little dribblers and bloopers," Robinson said. "There was nothing too solid besides a couple. She was definitely throwing hard."
The third consecutive trip to the state tournament is something Hastings is feeling goodabout this week.
"That's pretty crazy," Robinson said. "That just doesn't happen very often. We're feeling very lucky. It definitely shows the hard work the girls have put in the last three or four years is paying off."
Robinson said the players have bought into the program and have accepted their roles, which makes this kind of success possible.
"If you don't bust your butt to become the best at whatever role you have, it just doesn't work out," he said. "To have dedicated kids willing to do what's best for the team is what gets us to where we are today.
"Our goal now is to just keep working hard and get better. Hopefully we'll look at one game at a time and don't overlook any team and try to take care of the team that is in our path."
The first team in Hastings' path will be Prior Lake, the No. 7-ranked team in the state. Hastings, meanwhile, is No. 5. The two teams face off at 11 a.m. Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
Should Hastings win, they'll play again at 5 p.m. Thursday. The state title game is at 1 p.m. June 11.
Other ranked teams in the state tournament field are Burnsville, North St. Paul and Forest Lake. Burnsville is in Hastings side of the bracket. The Blaze, ranked No. 2, beat No. 1-ranked Eagan to advance.
"One of the goals is to win state," Robinson said. "We're on the right track. We just need to get one team at a time and stay focused. I like the spot we are in. It's just a matter of staying together and working hard."
At one point this season, Hastings had a 4-2 record. Much has changed down the stretch, though, as the team is 17-1 in its last 18 games. The early season losses didn't bother Robinson.
"That helped set the tone," he said. "That let our team know that it doesn't matter who you are playing. If we overlook them, they will sneak up and bite us. It was a huge advantage to have a couple losses like that early on. Everyone was out to get us."
Hastings is led at the plate by Jordan Schaffer, who has a .450 batting average.
Wical is hitting .375, Robinson is hitting .292, Katilyn Stark is hitting .284 and Katie Nelson is at .271.
As a team, the Raiders are hitting .265.
Trautmann has four home runs, Robinson has three and Kranz has one.
Trautmann has 156 strikeouts in 109 innings. She has an ERA of 0.45 and has a 13-0 record.
Connell has 106 strikeouts in 79 innings. She has an ERA of 0.89 and is 8-3 on the season.