– Zumbrota-Mazeppa's 2016 Class 2A championship was expected. But to win it again in 2017? Well, even the Cougars admit they didn't see this one coming.

Junior pitcher Lyndsey Quam scattered seven hits and gave up just one run as the Cougars beat previously undefeated Maple Lake 4-1 to win their second consecutive state title.

The Cougars had lost most of their lineup from 2016 to graduation. The 2017 season held promise, but with so many new players, the feeling was that a repeat was not likely.

"I was just talking to my teammate Natalie [Majerus], and we were like 'How did we do this?' " Quam said. "How did we just beat a 26-0 team? This is not an outcome that I saw at the beginning of my junior season."

Maple Lake had run roughshod over most of its opponents all season, averaging more than 10 runs per game. But Quam held them in control by forcing the Irish to hit her pitch and then relying on the defense. She struck out just one batter.

"I really tried to throw strikes because I know I have an awesome defense behind me," Quam said. "They made plays. We couldn't have won without that defense behind me."

Zumbrota-Mazeppa (24-6) scored three runs in the third — two on a single by Tara Matuska — and Quam made sure that lead stood up.

"This is a great feeling," Quam said. "We've just grown so much. People have come alive that didn't do a lot during the regular season. It's just awesome to accomplish a state tournament title."

Jim Paulsen