North Mankato – North Branch center fielder Katelyn Berg didn't flinch for the Vikings with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
The senior made a game-sealing grab on a fly ball to clinch a 3-1 victory over Hill-Murray in the Class 3A semifinals at Caswell Park.
"I was just really confident," said Berg about her winning catch for North Branch (25-2).
Senior pitcher Sam Pederson was, too. "I knew right off the bat that she had it because she makes those plays all the time," she said.
The Pioneers (17-4) scored first in the fourth inning with pitcher Jayna Witzany driving in a run, scoring senior Amber Peterson.
North Branch tied the score in the fifth with Elizabeth Gladitsch scoring a run on a single by senior Amber Yoch.
The Vikings, making their first state tournament appearance, broke the 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with Berg scoring on a single by Macy Brodin, who scored on Heather Kost's single.
Pederson struck out 11, giving up five hits and no earned runs. The Pioneers' Witzany had six strikeouts and gave up two earned runs.
Faribault 7, Winona 1: Junior catcher Abby Van Ryn hit a key two-run homer in the fifth inning, extending the Falcons' lead to five runs. "I just kept my hands back and was ready," Van Ryn said.
Faribault junior McKayla Armbruster struck out six batters in the first three innings. She also limited Winona to its lone run with a strikeout to end the fourth inning.
The Falcons (22-2) led 3-1 at that point from three runs in the third inning when Winona fielders ran into each other twice. Winhawks junior catcher Lauryn Hamernik said it shocked them. Winona (18-6) had given up an average of only 1.5 earned runs per game going into the tournament.
"That's very rare," Hamernik said about the mistakes.