Bloomington Jefferson's smallest player provided the biggest punch in the Class 3A, Section 3 softball championship game Wednesday at Eagan High School.
With two runners on and the top-seeded Jaguars trailing by a run in the top of the sixth inning, senior third baseman Emily Gavel -- all 4-11 of her -- took a 3-2 pitch from Burnsville's Shannon Callanan and drove it to the fence. Both runners scored, putting Jefferson on top for good in a 9-4 victory to secure its second consecutive trip to state.
"I looked up and said, 'Grandpa, be with me on this one; make me a hero,'" Gavel said. "[Callanan] gave me a fat pitch to hit right down the plate and I got it."
Said Bloomington Jefferson pitcher Hannah Evavold, "I thought that thing was going over."
Gavel, Karmann Carroll and Kylie Earl combined for nine of the 13 hits belted by the sixth-ranked Jaguars (21-2). They also took advantage of four errors from a Burnsville team, the No. 3 seed, that didn't get a hit until sending eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 4-3 lead.
Evavold and starter Lauren Falkanger combined to allow the Blaze (15-10) only four hits -- all in the fourth inning -- and struck out seven.
The section championship was a far cry from last season when Jefferson, the underdog, had to defeat Burnsville twice over the span of two days and more than 20 innings in the double-elimination tournament.
"I told the kids from the beginning we wanted to make this one game," Jaguars coach Penny Witzenburg said. "I knew how bad they wanted this and I knew they weren't going to let one inning get to them."