During a seven-batter sequence in the top of the fourth inning on May 5, the North Branch softball team gave up seven runs to see its early 1-0 lead turn into a 7-1 deficit.
The Vikings needed a big sequence of their own to get back in the game, and they achieved it in the bottom of the fifth.
Jillayna Hoppe opened the inning by reaching first on an error. Katelyn Berg hit a bloop single into left field, then a Sophie Smith single brought in one run, and a Grand Rapids throwing error brought in another. Amber Yoch singled up the middle, then Heather Kost smacked a double to bring home two more runs. With two outs, Macy Brodin knocked in the tying run with two outs.
The Vikings took the lead under bizarre circumstances in the sixth. Cassie Sinn walked to lead off the frame, and Smith sacrificed her to second. The Grand Rapids first baseman saw that Sinn was slightly off the bag at second, so she fired a pickoff attempt. That throw sailed into center field, and Sinn scampered all the way home.
“I wasn’t sure why they were going to second on that play,” head coach Brian Robelia said. “They weren’t paying attention, and we stole a run.”
The Vikings pushed across two more runs in the inning to take a 10-7 lead.
The Thunder Hawks loaded the bases with two down in the top of the seventh. Lizzy Bowman hit a single to Hoppe in left field. One run scored, but Hoppe’s throw to catcher Emma Hurd nailed the trailing runner at home to end the threat and the game.
In conference play, the Vikings went 2-1 on the week, beating Big Lake 3-2 and falling to Chisago Lakes 12-2.
The Vikings also participated in a tournament hosted by Sauk Rapids on May 6. The Vikings were not daunted by the unfamiliar western competition, rolling through all three rounds to claim the title.
None of the Vikings’ games were close: They beat Duluth Marshall 10-0 in the quarterfinals, Watertown-Mayer 13-2 in a game shortened by the mercy rule, and Thief River Falls 8-2 in the championship game. Half the Vikings’ runs in the final were provided in an instant by Sinn, who hit a grand slam, her first varsity homer.
“We weren’t happy with how we played (against Grand Rapids), so we came out like gangbusters and rolled through our games,” Robelia said. “We played quite well.”
Kristi Pilz picked up the shutout win in the quarterfinal, while Sam Pederson allowed only two earned runs combined in the semifinal and final.
The five wins in a week of play improved the Vikings’ season mark to 10-5. They will be road warriors this week, traveling to Buffalo on May 10 and St. Francis on May 11, then playing a doubleheader against Cloquet and Princeton at Princeton on May 12.