Larissa Helget doesn’t look like a power hitter. The Knights leadoff hitter is, as my Irish relatives would say, “a mere wisp of a girl.” But don’t let appearances fool you – there’s a darn good ball player packed into her slender frame – good speed, decent arm and glove, and a solid hitter with surprising punch. Earlier in the season I saw her hit a home run over the left field fence, so when she came to bat in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, the bases loaded and St. Mary’s trailing Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart 3-4, anything could happen. She was 0 for 3 at the plate and was due. With two strikes on her, she blasted a ball over the head of the BL-HS right fielder for a triple and three RBI. Just like that, with one stroke, the Knights took the lead for good.
Up until then it had been a frustrating night for St. Mary’s, both at the plate and in the field. Even though BL-HS came into the playoffs with a losing record, they played well against St. Mary’s in the regular season. In a tight, tense game against a good Mustang team St. Mary’s just couldn’t seem to get much going. The Knights hitters were at times baffled by BL-HS pitcher Jessie Kalenberg and weak rallies fell short. BL-HS scored two runs in the top of the first, but St. Mary's came back with one in the bottom of the frame on a double by Emily Schumacher and a double by Mandee Heiderscheidt. They then scored two in the bottom of the second. Karissa Fleck started the action with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Laura Pelzel singled to put runners at the corners. Pelzel attempted to steal second and was safe on a throwing error. In that play Fleck came home with the first run. Bethany Berkner reached on an error by the BLHS shortstop on the throw and advanced to second. With runners at second and third, Deonna Brinkman lofted a sacrifice fly to right to plate Pelzel for the second run.
The Knights held the one run lead, 3-2, until the fourth when the Mustangs scored a run, and then got on the board again in the top of the fifth with another to take a 3-4 lead. In the meantime, St. Mary’s was going three and out in the third, fourth and fifth innings. It looked like a real possibility that the second seeded Knights could be “one and done” in the playoffs. Then came the pivotal sixth inning. Fleck singled, Pelzel reached on a bunt single and Berkner made it to first on a fielder’s choice, setting the stage for Helget’s heroics. Now the Knights just had to shut down the Mustangs in the top of the seventh to escape with the win and BL-HS cooperated by going down in order.
This was a close game, maybe closer than it should have been. Now St. Mary’s goes to North Mankato on Saturday to face the Sleepy Eye Indians at 11 a.m. This should be a great game between two evenly matched teams. You won’t want to miss it.
Mandee Heiderscheidt: 3/3, 1 2B, 1 RBI 1 SB
Karissa Fleck: 2/3, 2 runs
Larissa Helget: 1/4, 1 3B, 3 RBI
Emily Schumacher: 1/4, 1 run, 1 2B, 1 SB
Laura Pelzel: 1/3, 2 runs
Maddy Helget (W): 7 innings, 4 runs (2 earned), 7 hits, 8 strikeouts, 1 BB