Mankato West knew the hits would come.

So when the No. 1-ranked Scarlets, who scored all of their runs in the first inning of a 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Alexandria, failed to score in the first inning of their semifinal against Benilde-St. Margaret’s, they weren’t worried.

“We’ve been kind of a slow-starting team,” said sophomore catcher Hannah Rode. “Once we get that first hit, we all hit.”

It was Rode who delivered Mankato West’s big blow, crushing a three-run home run to left-center in the second inning. The floodgates yawned opened after that and the Scarlets went on to rout the Red Knights 12-0 in five innings.

Senior pitcher Lexi Schoper threw a one-hitter, striking out eight. “After Hannah hit that, the energy level went way up,” Schoper said.

The Class 3A championship game will be an all Big 9 Conference affair. Mankato West (25-1) will play Winona, a 2-0 winner over Hermantown in the other semifinals. West beat Winona 2-1 during the regular season.

Jim Paulsen