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Eighth-grader dominates big-class state softball final

The Star Tribune's Jim Paulsen is at Caswell Park in North Mankato to take you through all four championship games Friday. Read Wednesday's quarterfinals coverage here and Thursday's semifinals coverage here.

. . .We have a big-class champion: Rogers

1:45 p.m.

In the exuberant aftermath of Rogers' 3-0 victory over New Prague in the Class 4A championship game, Royals senior catcher Kami Messer clung tightly to a yellow stuffed duck, a prize awarded to her by her teammates.

Messer was chosen by the rest of the Royals as their player of the game.

Good choice.

She had slugged two hits, including an RBI double in the fifth inning to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. She also was the calming influence and voice of reason for pitcher AnnaBelle Waldoch, an eighth-grader. Waldoch pitched a complete game, giving up three hits and walking four while striking out seven and leaning on the veteran influence of Messer in tight situations.

"Having Kami as the catcher is one of the best things ever," Waldoch said. "She is so supportive and she has so many years of experience that she just knows what to do. And having someone behind the plate that can lead me through this was really helpful."

Rogers (22-3) went into the season with something to prove. The Royals had made only one state tournament appearance before this year, in 2005. But their laser focus was evident the entire 2024 tournament. Their defense, marvelous all three games, was stellar in the final, twice thwarting rallies by New Prague (21-4) with double plays.

"Pitching can be somewhat up and down, hitting can be up and down, but defense has to stay up," Royals coach Jerry Bruns said.

Messer grinned widely while holding the Rally Duck, talking about her day. A big day on the field, sure, but she preferred to talk about her role as a leader of a state champion team.

"I feel I brought a lot of confidence and composure to this game," she said. "It can be really stressful for everybody, and everybody can be anxious. I'm glad that I was able to calm people down and be there for my team."

. . .

The rest of the day, from early morning to just now:

Class 1A: New Ulm Cathedral 10, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 4

6:22 p.m.

It wasn't until the team began winning game after game during the regular season that New UIm Cathedral coach Jamie Kuehn began to think she had something special on her hands.

The Greyhounds capped a 26-2 season that began with a 14-game winning streak and concluded with a 10-4 victory over Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the Class 1A championship game.

It's the eighth softball state championship for New Ulm Cathedral. Kuehn was an assistant coach on the 2014 state champs and a player on the 2005 and 2007 editions.

But an early-season injury to the Greyhounds' anticipated starter forced the Cathedral staff to pivot and search for someone new.

They landed on an unexpected solution: seventh-grader Jayde Altermatt.

"She threw the most strikes," Kuehn reasoned.

Altermatt won all three state tournament games for the Greyhounds.

The Greyhounds meshed, cruising to an 18-1 regular season and winning five of six in the Section 2A playoffs. The section loss to rival United South Central was balanced by a championship victory over USC.

"We knew they were going to come into the section playoff firing, but we figured we'd get them in the second game," Kuehn said.

After winning the state title, Kuehn doesn't expect to underestimate next year's crew.

"We have a lot to be excited about," she said.

Class 2A: Randolph 3, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 0

5:20 p.m.

There was more behind Randolph's 27-1 run to the Class 2A state championship, which the Rockets clinched with a 3-0 victory over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial on Thursday, than softball observers realized.

Randolph has been a regular tournament entrant in recent years, having made it each year since 2018 that the tournament was held. But after winning the 2021 Class 1A state championship, the Rockets had a disappointing experience in each of the past two seasons, including an unexpected loss in the first round in 2023.

Another unsatisfying tourney appearance was not about to happen this year.

Particularly with a pitcher the caliber of Carter Raymond on the rubber. Raymond, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, found out before the game she was the winner of the Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year award. She went out and showed why, shutting down LCWM on four hits for her second consecutive shutout in the tournament. She struck out six, giving her 28 over three games, and issued the only walk she allowed in the three games.

Sour taste eliminated.

Randolph coach Dennis Trom had this to say about his pitcher: "The best thing about Carter Raymond is that she's a junior," he said with a grin. "She's coming back next year. She's just a bulldog. She's worked hard to get to where she's at. And she deserves all the honors she's been getting."

Trom also mentioned that the Rockets won the state title in their first year after moving up to Class 2A, no small feat.

"I guess I never realized how much the jump is from 1A to Double A. Those teams are solid," Trom said. "I mean, that Lake Crystal team is a fantastic team."

Said Raymond of rising to 2A: "We wanted to prove it to ourselves that we belong here. We worked even harder."

Sophomore catcher Allie Gillette broke out of a tournament slump with a two-run single in the third to give the Rockets an early lead.

"That was the most fun I've had," Gillette said. "You could feel the pressure, but every game we were getting better. This was our goal, and we accomplished that and it couldn't make us any more happy."

Early roll in play in 1A

5:10 p.m.

New Ulm Cathedral is rolling over Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 9-2 in the Class 1A final. The lead was built with four runs in the second inning and five in the fourth.

Class 3A: Mankato East 6, Cretin-Derham Hall 1

3:18 p.m.

Cretin-Derham Hall was feeling good.

The Raiders had scored the only run of the game going into the seventh and final inning of the Class 3A championship game against Mankato East. Pitcher Brooke Nesdahl was dealing a shutout, and the Raiders defense had just stifled a rally with a catch against the fence in the top of the sixth.

Then East's 6-foot-2 power-hitting first baseman came to the plate, leading off the top of the seventh. One swing by Hailey Petzel and the ball was sailing over the center-field fence, tying the score. It was Petzel's third home run of the tournament.

Now flush with confidence, the Cougars tacked on five more runs — all unearned as Cretin-Derham Hall stumbled defensively, making five errors — to turn a one-run deficit into a five-run, 6-1 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, Cretin-Derham Hall couldn't relocate the momentum it held through the first six innings. Game over. Mankato East wins 6-1.

Star pitcher Kylinn Stangl said she and her Mankato East teammates were not hanging their heads when they trailed.

"We had been hitting [Nesdahl], so I knew they were going to fall," said Stangl, who has committed to the Gophers. "And I had confidence that we had one of our best hitters coming up."

Petzel said she wasn't thinking home run when she hit it, despite her previous long-ball success.

"My mind-set was just try to get on, try to do something to get a run across," Petzel said. "I mean, if it's a home run, if it's a home run."

Cretin-Derham Hall coach Carolyn Osdoba was measured in her postgame response.

"We knew Mankato East was gonna come to play," she said. "We knew it was gonna be a close game. We had 'em until the seventh."

That's one for the Rockets

3:42 p.m.

Randolph is your Class 2A champion, with a 3-0 victory over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial.

Randolph (27-1) tacked on a run on an RBI single by Kylee Carey that scored Paige Otte from second in the top of the seventh. That gave the Rockets a 3-0 lead, and it meant Carter Raymond needed only three more outs. The Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year, she finished up neatly. It was her second consecutive shutout. She allowed just two runs, one earned, in the entire tournament.

Raymond and stubborn Rockets keep lead

3:18 p.m.

That two-run lead is holding up for Randolph in the Class 2A final.

Randolph pitcher Carter Raymond got out of jams in the third inning and again in the sixth, and the Rockets lead 2-0.

Randolph snags the lead

2:37 p.m.

Randolph, ranked No. 1 and seeded No. 1, takes a 2-0 lead over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial on a two-out, two-run double by Ella Banks in the top of the third inning.

The Rockets are in town

1:46 p.m.

It's an orange whip here at Caswell Park. Randolph fans have turned out in force to support the Rockets in the Class 2A championship game against Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial. Randoph orange is everywhere.

Mankato East rallies big-time

1:55 p.m.

Mankato East put together six runs in the top of the seventh inning and ran away with the Class 3A title, defeating Cretin-Derham Hall 6-1.

Mankato East senior Hailey Petzel homered to lead off the seventh and tie the game.

Fielding miscues by Cretin-Derham Hall and a few Mankato East bunts resulted in more runs for Mankato East.

Cretin-Derham Hall outfielder Audrey Michel stole a potential home run from Mankato East's Kylinn Stangl in the sixth inning, robbing her with a catch at the fence in left-center. That protected the Raiders' 1-0 lead, until the top of the seventh.

Never mind about that shutout

1:04 p.m.

Cretin-Derham Hall took the lead in the Class 3A final, 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth on a bloop single by eighth-grader Maddie Mulcahy with the bases loaded.

Class 3A final is stuck at 0-0

12:31 p.m.

The Class 3A final remains scoreless in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Manakto East's Kylinn Stangl just won a head-to-head matchup with Cretin-Derham Hall pitcher Brooke Nesdahl, striking out Nesdahl with a runner on second and two out to keep the score 0-0.

It's a rematch of a 2023 semifinal that East won in 10 innings.

Royals score again, and we see a pattern

11:19 a.m.

Rogers takes a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth on a single to left by Kami Messer.

Rogers is playing solid defense today. The Royals just deflated a New Prague threat with a 4-6-3 double play. Don't see many of those in softball with the shortish baselines.

Rogers pitcher AnnaBelle Waldoch walked the bases loaded and got out of it. Loading the bases and not brining runners home is what killed Rosemount against Rogers on Thursday.

Rosemount held off Forest Lake 3-2 to win the 4A third-place title.

Rogers scores the day's first run

10:18 a.m.

Rogers takes a 1-0 lead with a run-scoring double into the right-field gap by Olivia Ohme.

The Royals used a double play to get out of the bottom of the first. New Prague's Jordyn Marsh flew out to right, and Rogers right fielder Ella Schreiner threw out the New Prague baserunner, Lenna Britten, trying to tag up and go to third.

Marsh got three strikeouts in the first inning but gave up a two-out double to Kami Messer

Raising champions

10:06 a.m.

Angie (Recknor) Waldoch is the mother of Rogers starting pitcher AnnaBelle Waldoch. She is also a two-time Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, from when she pitched at Hopkins in the late 1990s, and was an All-America selection as a pitcher at the University of Minnesota.

She's worked with many of the Rogers players in the high school softball offseason but said she steps away from the team during the season in deference to other coaches, high school and club, who have been with them.

While she has traded her role as ace for one as a mother, that doesn't mean she's not deeply involved with her two softball-playing daughters.

"My roles have flipped," Recknor-Waldoch said. "Now I'm catching them. It's not as much pitching."

She said she bought a new glove recently just for the task.

"I paid $200 for a Rawlings first baseman's glove because they don't make lefthanded catcher's mitts," she said. "They've already burned a hole on the pocket ad broken three strings on the webbing from all the catching I've been doing."

The games before the games

9:43 a.m.

Action is already under way at the softball state tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

The first game to get started Friday was the Class 4A third-place game between Rosemount and Forest Lake. It's the matchup many thought would happen in the championship game. The final pits New Prague against Rogers at 10 am.

Other finals: Class 3A — Mankato East vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, noon; 2A — Randolph vs. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, 2 p.m.; 1A — New Ulm Cathedral vs. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, 4 p.m.

It's much less windy today, but that means the gnats are swarming.

Championship games

FRIDAY

Tap on the game for a live update or postgame summary

Class 4A: Rogers 3, New Prague 0

Class 3A: Mankato East 6, Cretin-Derham Hall 1

Class 2A: Randolph 3, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 0

Class 1A: New Ulm Cathedral 10, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 4

Semifinals

THURSDAY

Tap on the game for a postgame summary

Class 4A, 2 p.m.

New Prague 3, Rosemount 1

Rogers 7, Forest Lake 5

Class 3A, 2 p.m.

Cretin-Derham Hall 5, St. Francis 4

Mankato East 5, Winona 0

Class 2A, 4:30 p.m.

Randolph 1, St. Agnes 0

Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 8, St. Cloud Cathedral 3

Class 1A, 4:30 p.m.

New Ulm Cathedral 4, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 2

Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 8, West Lutheran 2

Class 4A quarterfinals

Tap on the game for a postgame summary

WEDNESDAY

Rosemount 8, Stillwater 7 (8)

New Prague 5, St. Michael-Albertville 1

Forest Lake 5, Eden Prairie 1

Rogers 7, Edina 0

Class 3A quarterfinals

Tap on the game for a postgame summary

WEDNESDAY

Cretin-Derham Hall 8, Benilde-St. Margaret's 0

St. Francis 6, Rocori 2

Winona 6, Simley 1

Mankato East 16, North Branch 2

Class 2A quarterfinals

Tap on the game for a postgame summary

WEDNESDAY

Randolph 3, Glencoe-Silver Lake 2

St. Agnes 5, Proctor 0

Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 7, Dassel-Cokato 1

St. Cloud Cathedral 2, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 1

Class 1A quarterfinals

Tap on the game for a postgame summary

WEDNESDAY

New Ulm Cathedral 8, Northome/Kelliher 1

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 10, Moose Lake/Willow River 0

Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 9, Red Lake Falls 7

West Lutheran 14, Blooming Prairie 7

. . .

Tournament brackets

Class 4A | Class 3A | Class 2A | Class 1A

. . .

Tickets

Cost ranges from $8 to $13. Tickets must be purchased online at mshsl.org/tickets.

. . .

Streaming

The Neighborhood Sports Network will stream state tournament games. A subscription is required. Link to the streams here.

. . .

More coverage

The Star Tribune will publish stories and other content related to these state championships and more this week. Keep up by checking startribune.com/preps each day. Thank you for reading and subscribing.

. . .

Tournament information

* The MSHSL's spectator guide

* Download and print the tournament program

* Star Tribune high school sports page.