Eastview coach Trevor Monroe is admittedly a superstitious type. He routinely carries a horseshoe in his game bag, a good-luck charm from his father, who raises horses in their native Manitoba.
And while it would be unfair to classify Eastview’s 1-0 victory over Maple Grove in the Class 3A semifinals as lucky, it sure didn’t hurt.
“I’m so superstitious about everything,” Monroe said. “I never hope for any specific thing because I’m always worried it might not work out the way I think it will. I carry this with me all the time, just in case.”
With pitcher Kerrigan Hoshaw pitching a gem, the Lightning did just enough on offense to defeat two-time Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Sydney Smith. Junior right fielder Sam Gall’s double in the fifth inning scoring Hailey Monroe, who had coaxed a walk off Smith in the previous at-bat, from first.
If driving in the only run of the game isn’t enough, Gall did it one inning after colliding with teammate Courtney Wissbaum on a hit by Maple Grove’s Sammi Sadler. Wissbaum inadvertently stepped on Gall’s hand, resulting in swelling and visible cleat marks.
“We thought she was going to be out when she was on the ground,” third baseman Julia Luciano said. “She broke her ribs a couple of years ago the same way, so it was so special to have her be the one who drove the run in.”
The run was all Hoshaw would need. She outdueled Smith, relying on pinpoint accuracy and the solid defense of her teammates. Hoshaw was at her efficient best: she only struck out three batters, but she didn’t walk anyone and worked out of trouble in back-to-back innings, stranding Maple Grove runners at third base.
While Monroe wouldn’t admit to wanting to play Maple Grove, both Hoshaw and Luciano did, saying it was important to beat the best.
“I wanted to go against them because they were the team to beat,” Hoshaw said. “We wanted the chance to see if we could do it and we did.”
Eastview (23-3) will play Anoka in Friday’s Class 3A championship game.
The Tornadoes unexpectedly successful year continued Thursday. They tied the school record for victories, 24, after beating Becker 6-3 in the semifinals.
For Anoka, the talent was not the question. Age and health were.
Ace pitcher Amber Elliott suffered a knee injury at the end of the regular season. For most teams, that would be knockout blow to their postseason chances. For Anoka, it was simply a chance for others to step up.
Sophomore pitcher Molly Swenson moved into the starting role and has flourished. Swenson is a hard thrower whose lefthandedness gives opponents something they don’t see often. Since the injury to Elliott, the soft-spoken Swenson pitches the early innings, then gives way to a reliever.
She was at her best in the semifinals, giving up seven hits and two earned runs, striking out 11 batters, before leaving after five innings.
“It’s pretty nerve-racking, but everybody has stepped up to support me,” Swenson said. “If you told me at the start of the season this would happen, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Perhaps not, but Anoka coach Toni Jesinoski did.
“She’s a hard kid to read, but that’s what makes her a good pitcher,” Jesinoski said. “She had five wins for us before Amber got hurt, so we know she’s pretty good.”
Center fielder Taylor Chell, a senior whose confidence in exceeded only by her talent — she’ll play for the University of Minnesota next year — has made it a point to lend a hand to Swenson.
“She’s my girl,” Chell said. “She doesn’t say much, but when she does say something, people notice. She’ll surprise you.”