NORTH MANKATO, MINN. — About an hour after Stillwater pitcher Hannah Heacox finished her nondescript breakfast -- a waffle -- raindrops began to trickle down on Caswell Park on Thursday. Claps of thunder soon followed, and by mid-morning, all six fields at the complex were muddy puddles.
The bad weather caused a three-hour delay to the start of the state softball tournament, and it wreaked havoc on the rest of the day's schedule.
Heacox finally took the circle against Farmington in the Class 3A quarterfinals around noon, and she had plenty of leftover waffle fuel in the tank.
The junior threw the 33rd no-hitter in tournament history, striking out 11 Tigers batters in an 11-0 romp.
"I didn't even know until someone told me after the game," Heacox said. "We were pretty loose during [the delay] -- like dancing on the bus and stuff. But once we came back, we got focused. It was softball time."
Because players from the Ponies' semifinal opponent, Mankato East, had graduation ceremonies to attend to Thursday evening across town, the two teams met only about 90 minutes after their completed quarterfinal contests.
After a day full of delays, the teams must have figured: Why not play a little longer?
Stillwater's Allison Eder-Zdechlik roped a solo home run to left field in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score 2-2. The teams then traded zeroes for three innings before Ponies bats came alive in the 11th inning.
The Ponies batted around, scoring four runs, leading to a 6-2 victory over the Cougars and a spot in Friday's championship game. It's Stillwater's first title game appearance since winning the 1998 championship.
Natalie Gerber provided the most pop. She followed up her solo homer in the second inning with the go-ahead, two-run single in extra innings.
"I saw the ball was inside so I opened up and jacked it," Gerber said of her 11th-inning hit. "It was challenging, but we pulled it off. This is what we work for. This is what softball is: close games for state championships."
Heacox was again solid in the circle. She struck out 13 in the complete-game effort, the biggest coming with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
"I just told myself I had to pitch strikes, and if I pitched strikes everything else would turn out OK," she said.Maple Grove 3, Orono 0
The top-ranked Crimson defeated the Spartans in a late-night semifinal, the last game of an exhausting day.
Pitcher Cayli Sadler, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, struck out 13 Spartans, including the first seven outs made by Orono. She also provided an offensive punch. Sadler laced an RBI single in the third to break a scoreless tie. In the fifth inning, she was on first base when Mandi Mauch hammered a no-doubt-about-it home run to left field.
Maple Grove last appeared in the championship game in 2006, when it lost to Rosemount.