NORTH MANKATO – Pitcher Ashton Hoeppner was in control the entire game against Totino-Grace, giving up just one hit and striking out 13 in a 5-0 victory Thursday that sends Winona to the Class 3A championship game for the second consecutive year.
As runners-up in the Northwest Suburban Conference, Totino-Grace had seen good pitching before, but Hoeppner was sharp and shut the Eagles down.
"We couldn't hit her rise ball and she was throwing first-pitch strikes," Totino-Grace coach Mike Sullwold said. "When she got up in the count, she made the pitch she wanted. She's one of the better pitchers we've seen all year."
Totino-Grace (22-3) stayed close for the game's first four innings behind pitcher Erin Poepping, but Winona put the game out of reach with a four-run fifth inning as Poepping, who pitched a complete game in a 6-5 victory over Big Lake in the quarterfinals, wore down.
"They got the hit we couldn't get," Poepping said. "[Hoeppner] was in control and we couldn't figure it out."
Hermantown 6, Mankato West 5: Suffice it to say, Mankato West has seen all it cares to see of Hermantown's Jordyn Thomas. The senior first baseman hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to erase a Mankato West lead, then doubled and scored the game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning as the Hawks upended the defending champion Scarlets. Thomas was 3-for-4 with four RBI.
It was the second one-run victory of the day for Hermantown (21-4). The Hawks advanced to the semifinals by holding off Mendota Heights-based Visitation 7-6 in the quarterfinals.