NORTH MANKATO, MINN. - After years of watching their crosstown rival have success, it was time Friday for Mankato East's softball team to take a turn in the spotlight.
The Cougars completed a season in which they were ranked No. 1 much of the time with a state title. One day after an epic 10-inning victory in the semifinals, Mankato East beat Chisago Lakes 11-0 in the final to win the Class 3A championship.
Mankato East has a rich softball tradition. Going into the tournament, the Cougars had made 16 state appearances, four ending in championships.
But they hadn't been back since 2012, while Mankato West was hogging the spotlight, going to five state tournaments and winning two. Mankato West kept East out of the state tournament last year, winning 2-1 in the section final.
"It was great to finally bring a championship back to Mankato East," sophomore pitcher Kylinn Stangl said. "I wouldn't say we're bitter … but we thought that should have been us."
Stangl came back on less than 24 hours' rest after throwing 160 pitches in the semifinal and cruised through the Chisago Lakes lineup.
"She's so tenacious," Mankato East coach Joe Madson said. "She's just a workhorse."
Playing in the softball-mad Big Nine conference was a grind during the regular season, Madson admitted, but it paid off.
"It's a really good Class 3A conference. We played a schedule with a lot of good teams," he said.
So, did it help in the state tournament?
"Oh, big time," Madson said.