NORTH MANKATO, MINN. - New year. New field. New result.
Just yards from where last season's Class 1A state softball tournament ended in heartbreak, Cherry dramatically won its first title, beating Blooming Prairie 2-1.
The teams each scored a run in the first inning, then were locked in a pitchers' duel until the bottom of the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, pinch runner Joley Roberts scored from third on a wild pitch.
It turned out to be the best pitch sophomore Kacey Herring, who had squared to bunt, ever missed.
"I would have liked it a lot more if it would have been a hit," she said. "But we'll definitely take this. It's what we've been working for all season."
The victory was the Tigers' 26th in a row since leaving Caswell Park with silver medals last June. They are the first to finish a softball season undefeated in Minnesota since Stillwater and Maple River each completed unblemished records in 1996.
Cherry's last victory was the sweetest, and not at all like the others.
After the team's official championship team photo opportunity in front of home plate, Roberts sprinted toward her father and leapt into his arms. Both were in tears.
"This means everything," Herring said.