Miscues haunt Arrows, as Pipestone Area places sixth at Class AA state softball tournament


The 2023 Pipestone Area softball team. K. Kyle

“You have to enjoy it and make memories; you don’t have to remember all the games, but try to remember the fun times, the hotel stays, the trips and all the bus rides.”

Pipestone Area senior second baseman Tegan Tuinstra’s sentiment was backed up by each of the team’s eight senior players following the Arrows’ 5-3 Class AA state softball tournament consolation championship loss to the Proctor Rails Friday afternoon at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

Although it wasn’t the way the senior-laden Arrows hoped to cap their season, those graduates have known nothing other than ‘state’ in their varsity careers – claiming a third or fourth Section 3AA crown as part of the program’s seven straight.

“Yeah, it’s bittersweet; you don’t want the season to end, and it’s hard to say goodbye to a great group – not only great ball players, but great kids, great people in the community and outstanding young ladies …tough to see’em go,” Pipestone Area assistant coach Robert Petersen said. “Most players never get to go to a state tournament and many of these seniors got to go three times, Kyla four actually. It’s sad now, but don’t be sad; it’s over and be glad it happened.”

Perhaps, in many minds, the ‘happening’ trumped the here-and-now, as the Arrows weren’t quite themselves to open the 2023 Class AA state tournament, committing eight errors and giving up three unanswered runs in the top of the seventh inning of their opener against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Thursday morning. The 6-4 loss dropped the Arrows into the consolation bracket, where they rebounded against the Pequot Lakes Patriots to advance to the consolation championship game for the second straight season. And, despite rallying to within a run (4-3) in the fifth inning versus the Rails, thoughts naturally drifted to the… end.    

“They’re a very good team and hit the ball very well,” said senior catcher Melody Remund, who drove in a run in the final game of her high school career. “For a lot of us, this is our last game ever and I think we let that get to us. We never stopped fighting, though, and we just kept telling each other, ‘Keep going, don’t stop!’”

However, as opposed to Thursday morning, Pipestone Area played ‘its’ brand of softball in its final game of the 2023 campaign.

“We still played Arrow softball; we played how we play, and we just didn’t happen to come out on top here in this last game,” Pipestone Area head coach Troy Bouman said. But that’s the way the state tournament is. They got the key hits early, got themselves on the scoreboard. We came back with a crooked number in that one inning, but couldn’t string enough together to get closer. A hit here or there might have changed the game dramatically, but that’s the way the state tournament is. A lot of teams would die to be here and we’re happy to be here. We all had higher goals and who doesn’t when you come here.”

Consolation Championship

Proctor 5, PAS 3

The Rails put the Arrows on their heels to open the tilt Friday afternoon, plating a pair of runs by stringing together a trio of hits off sophomore starter Mariah Moeller (1 inn., 2ER, 3H, 1K, 1BB).

Proctor padded its two-run lead by two more in the top of the third, as a pair of no-out walks issued by reliever Toryn Woelber (6 inn., 3ER, 9H, 2K, 3BB) caught up with the senior hurler. Another walk, sandwiched between singles off the bats of Anika Burke and Emma Shelton, offered the Section 7AA champions an opportunity to carry a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the inning.

Woelber fully settled in by the fourth and, despite giving up three hits over the fourth and fifth frames, the senior’s tenacious approach helped the Arrows rally at the plate in the bottom of the fifth.

“My change was probably my best pitch; my rise hadn’t been good all season and my drops were okay – had to try to make them chase it,” Woelber explained. “I was just trying to give it my all and help us play Arrow softball.”

Inserted at the plate in lieu of Moeller, senior Brynn Manzey (2-for-3, run) mimicked her effort in the third inning with another shot through the right side of the Proctor defense to open the bottom of the fifth inning. Classmate Madelyn Wiese followed with a single of her own and the Arrows’ third consecutive single – off the bat of Jadyn Kor (2-for-3, RBI, run) – plated Manzey to get the Arrows on the scoreboard.

Kyla Hubbling plated a second PAS run with a one-out drive to left and, following a fielder’s choice off the bat of Woelber that advanced the runners, Remund’s groundout to the right side was difficult enough to give Kyla Hubbling the plate and leave the Arrows down by a lone run heading into the top of the sixth.

“She put it right down the middle and I hit it,” Kyla Hubbling said of her RBI knock. “I’d been hitting it right at them most of the tournament, so that felt pretty good.”

Unfortunately for the Arrows, Proctor centerfielder Brooklynne Patterson drove a one-out delivery over the fence in center field to up the ante by a run heading into the bottom of the inning.

Madison Walsh (7 inn., 3ER, 9H, 4K, 1BB) did the rest for the Rails, as the senior hurler faced the minimum three batters in the sixth and seventh frames to close out the tilt.

“We didn’t roll over and die, and that shows a lot about us,” said senior Kayla Hubbling, who had a hit in the first inning. “We found a way to score a few runs and make a game of it.”

Proctor              202 001 0 – 5 12 0

PAS                          000 030 0 – 3 9 3

Consolation Semifinals

PAS 7, Pequot Lakes 1

Disheartened by the morning’s result, the Arrows bounced back well and truly played ‘Arrow’ softball against the Patriots Thursday evening in North Mankato – opening up a 3-0 after two complete innings and giving Moeller (7 inn., 1ER, 5H, 5K, 0BB) plenty of support throughout.

I was throwing my regular drop ball and, occasionally, my rise ball for a third strike,” Moeller said of her performance. “I’m happy we were able to bounce back and I’m very excited to be playing tomorrow – the last day of the season.”

“Yeah, that was Arrow softball,” added Coach Bouman. “We had just the one error, Kyla made defensive plays, Jadyn made defensive plays… is just what we do.

“We got on base and … Madelyn Wiese was ridiculous – getting on base and making things happen. I’m proud of the girls for fighting. We got some things to go our way, early, fought the whole game, found ways to keep putting runs on the board. Toryn came through with a big two-out hit… and Kaysa Douty and Madelyn. We couldn’t find a way to get that two-out hit in the first game, but we found ways in the second one… just so happy to be playing the last day of the year.”

Wiese certainly proved the talk of the consolation semifinals, as the swift third baseman finished 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored – beating out the throw to first base each time she put the  ball in play. The Arrows weren’t able to capitalize on Wiese’s lead-off single in the opening frame, but her one-out single to shallow center field in the top of the second tripled the Arrows’ lead – forged through Douty’s RBI single moments earlier.

The Patriots managed a weak response in the bottom of the third, scoring a lone run through back-to-back singles and a pick-off move that cut down Brea Eckes at second base and offered Kaitlyn Geschwill the plate from third.

Pipestone Area senior Toryn Woelber. K. Kyle

No matter, as the Arrows’ response in the top of the fourth was hefty. Singles by Remund, Wiese and Jadyn Kor, coupled with a passed ball, allowed Manzey, Wiese and Moeller (walk) to claim the plate and lift PAS to a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth.

Moeller faced the minimum three batters in the fourth and fifth frames and, despite giving up two hits in the sixth, wasn’t truly tested the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Arrows tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh on hits from Kayla Hubbling and Woelber.

“It was that anger part from the first game that motivated me,” Wiese said of her stellar performance. “We needed to push through this one… had to come back from what happened this morning. We didn’t talk about it a lot, but knew we had to go out there and play to our capabilities, forget about mistakes and keep fighting… play Arrow softball.”

PAS                          030 300 1 – 7 9 1

PL                            001 000 0 – 1 6 2

Quarterfinals

D-G-F 6, PAS 4

The Arrows’ run in the bottom if the sixth inning that saw Douty beat the throw to the plate with a brave head-first slide,  should have been enough.

After recovering from some sloppy defensive play in the early stages of their tournament opener, carrying a 3-2 lead into the sixth and ironically adding a marker – via an error – moving into the final frame, the Arrows gifted the Rebels three runs in the top of the seventh.

Kyla Hubbling (2 inn., 0ER, 2H, 2K, 0BB) looked sharp to begin her tenure in the circle, facing the minimum in the top of the sixth and fanning Natalee Linman to open the seventh. Unfortunately for the Arrows, the defense didn’t back the senior in relief of Moeller (5 inn., 1ER, 5H, 2K, 1BB)– committing back-to-back errors with one out. D-G-F centerfielder Makayla Winter followed with a hot shot to Wiese at third, who promptly stepped on the base for the force but opted not to throw to first in hope of completing a double play. Teammates Skylar Spessard and Ellie Boyd followed with back-to-back singles through the right side and up the middle, respectively, and the Rebels went from down-and-out to needing three outs to advance to the championship semifinals.

Wiese singled to open the bottom of the seventh, but a Jadyn Kor strikeout – coupled with a double play with Kayla Hubbling at the plate – shattered the Arrows’ dream of a state championship.

“It’s just one of those deals where this game can be brutal at times,” Petersen said. “You work extremely hard, and to come up here and play like that… I feel bad for them.  Hats off to D-G-F, they took advantage of us making mistakes and they did what they needed to do. We make a couple of early errors, but it looks like we’re settling in before… the seventh. Still, we’re one strike away from stepping on third and going to first to win the game. But with each error, they (Rebels) gain confidence and get more hits. We had opportunities and just couldn’t make the big play to end it. You have to play clean up here, especially to win it, and we didn’t play anywhere close to clean.”

Despite giving up a run on two hits in the top of the first, the Arrows appeared to have shaken off their nerves and lethargy by the time they came to the plate in the bottom of the frame. Jadyn Kor’s one-out double to center field aided the Arrows in their quick response, and an error coupled with an RBI drive off the bat of Woelber put the Arrows on top 2-1 after one complete frame.

All-Stars Kayla Hubbling and Kyla Hubbling with coaches Robert Petersen and Troy Bouman. K. Kyle

Aubrea Kor reached base on a D-G-F error in the bottom of the second and eventually came around to lift PAS to a 3-1 lead following an RBI single off the bat of Wiese.

The third frame proved fruitless for both sides and the fourth was equally uneventful with the exception of Wiese being cut down at the plate for the third out in the bottom half. Winter corralled a deep, two out drive from Jadyn Kor and threw the ball ‘on a rope’ to Spessard at the plate.

“It comes down to the little things; the girl made a great throw from center, put it on the money,” Bouman said. “You have to make plays here and they made a few more plays than we did.

“Credit to the girls, and I’m very proud of our kids. They’re a tight-knit team always put the team first before their own thing. Everybody would love to play all the time, but the team always comes first. And no matter what role they have, they’re always ready.”

A tiring Moeller issued a lead-off walk to Linman to open the fifth. The Rebel pinch hitter advanced on a passed ball and scored on an error at third before Winter’s ensuing sacrifice fly to right field proved deep enough to allow left fielder Katie Kittelson to claim the plate – tying the game at 3-all moving into the sixth.

Douty’s marker in the bottom of the sixth broke the deadlock and the Arrows were three outs from moving on in the championship bracket.

The Arrows’ defensive performance proved their demise in the end, and those young hopefuls looking to snatch one of many open positions on the team next spring would do well to remember the loss and how it came about.

“We haven’t had that kind of turnover for a few years now,” noted Petersen. “It’s a lot of work for us on the coaching staff, and the players have to put in the work, and… it starts tomorrow. Softball is not a two-month sport, it’s year-round. For now, we’ll celebrate this team, and… life goes on.”

However, for the eight seniors on the team, life will be quite different than it’s been for the last 3-4 years playing under coaches Bouman and Petersen.

“I don’t know if I can put into words what these coaches mean to me, to everyone; they’re the best coaches I’ve had and they’ve given each of us confidence we didn’t know we had. They’ve taught us so much about softball and… life. We know they’ll always be here for us, but it’s going to be hard without them.”

“I just love them so much (tears) and I’m going to miss them so much,” said Woelber, fighting back tears. “I look up to them like my dad, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without them. They’ve taught us so much for so long, always there for us and we all know we can always come to them for anything. It’s going to be so different without them in our daily lives.”

And the impact on the lives of those players with only a season or two on the varsity squad has been no less.

“I couldn’t ask for a better team, a better family, better coaches… anything,” said Aubrea Kor, who moved from track & field to softball her junior season.  “They always gave me positive feedback, knowing I could do it. I knew I could listen to and trust everything they said to help make me better.

“It’s been awesome to play three seasons of sports with my sister this year. I don’t have any words of advice for her because I know she’ll stay confident. She should and I think she knows how good she can be.”

And a very talented class of seniors should know how much they’ll be missed by the players who hope to take up the mantle as successfully as they have for the last 3-4 seasons.

“I can’t say enough about this senior class… such good role models for everyone, and we’re the best of friends,” said junior role player Alyssa Enger. “Hopefully, we can make more memories this summer before they move on to whatever they have planned in the fall.”

Whether or not the Arrows will be back at state next season after an eight-straight section crown remains to be seen. But this group can move forward with the knowledge they have done everything they could to keep the program, their town and each other moving forward.

“They’re a very, very good group of kids; they ‘re very respectful within the community, work extremely hard and have done everything that’s ever been asked of them in the program,” Petersen said. “They’re unbelievable young women, who will go very far in life.”

D-G-F                             100 020 3 – 6 7 4

PAS                                  210 001 0 – 4 7 8