NORTH MANKATO — This time, Winona finished the job.

With Ashton Hoeppner in control on the rubber, the Winhawks routed Hermantown 9-2 to win the Class 3A championship. Hoeppner, a senior, spotted Hermantown a pair of runs in the first inning, then shut down the Hawks, ending with a two-hitter and 14 strikeouts.

"In the first inning, I threw nothing but fastballs," Hoeppner said. "After that inning, I started to throw the changup, the drop, the rise. Once we mixed those in, they started swinging and getting off track more."

Katie Block went 3-for-4 with four RBI and Rhiannon Reinardy 3-for-4 with three RBI for Winona (24-3), which won its final 22 games.

"Once we got on our winning streak, this was the only thing on our minds," Hoeppner said.

The victory also ended a maddening run of runner-up finishes for Winona teams. Over the past two years, the Winhawks had finished second in girls' basketball twice, in softball a year ago and football last fall.

"This is a good thing," Hoeppner said. "We've had a lot of No. 2s. This shows we can be No. 1."

After the game, Hoeppner was headed back to Winona to speak at graduation ceremonies Friday evening. "My coach said, 'This must be the biggest day of your life.' I said, 'Yeah, but it will also be one of the most fun.'"

Jim Paulsen