NORTH MANKATO, MINN. — After Cherry held on to defeat Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 3-2 in the Class 1A softball quarterfinals Thursday at Caswell Park, a Tigers fan got up from his seat in the bleachers and playfully swatted another with his seat cushion.
"You won't see a better game than that!" he cackled.
Indeed, the game was a matchup of even powers: the only two undefeated teams in the entire three-class tournament.
Poor weather earlier in the day forced fans to wait until the late afternoon to see the first-round game. But they were rewarded.
Cherry's Shaina Novak took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Tigers looked to close out a shutout victory. That's when it got interesting.
A single and a wild pitch put Fighting Saints third baseman Courtney Olson into scoring position at second. She went to third when Brielle Hauge reached on an error. Both runners scored on Haylie Helms' two-run single.
Novak, though, struck out Kalli Forsell for the third time -- Novak's 12th strikeout overall -- to end the game.
The Tigers (25-0) aren't used to such drama; 14 of the team's victories have come via the 10-run rule.
"They forced us to make the routine plays and we didn't make very many," Cherry coach Darrell Bjerklie said of K-M-S. "That's why they are as good as they are."
Cherry later avenged its loss to New Life Academy in last year's Class 1A championship game with a 2-0 victory over four-time defending champions. The Tigers got one run in the first then benefited from an inside-the-park home run by Kristin Lahti in the sixth.
Novak gave up only one hit.
Cherry will play Blooming Prairie for the title. The Awesome Blossoms won their semifinal over New Ulm Cathedral 3-2 on a walk-off walk.Walking off
Cloquet's Kayla Masessa did her best Rickey Henderson impression. The senior leadoff hitter thought she had flied out to end the Lumberjacks' quarterfinal against Mound Westonka. But the ball kept carrying to left and cleared the mesh fence for a three-run walk-off homer to beat the White Hawks 4-3.
In another 2A quarterfinal, St. Anthony beat Hawley 1-0 when Kenzie Hadler singled home Becca Bates from third with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.