Huskies win twice in Section 3AA softball playoffs

May 24—WINDOM — The Jackson County Central softball team put together two wins Thursday to open Section 3AA tournament play, and the two wins came a bit differently.

The third-seeded Huskies' first win came against No. 6 seed Redwood Valley, a team they swept during the regular season. That win featured offense as JCC scored 10 runs, six of which that came in the sixth inning to pull away late.

JCC then faced No. 2 seed and host Windom Area, who received a first-round bye, in an anticipated area matchup. During the regular-season doubleheader between the two teams, Windom won the first game in walkoff fashion and then JCC won the second game in a 14-0 blowout.

Thursday's playoff game proved to be a battle of pitching and defense. The Huskies managed to score a couple of early runs and then hold onto that lead in a narrow shutout victory.

Here is a recap of both games.

Jackson County Central 10, Redwood Valley 4

Game one against Redwood Valley saw pitching brilliance from sophomore Hadley Wachal along with a 3-for-3 batting performance from catcher Bailey Finck, including two home runs.

The Cardinals actually scored the first runs of the game in the top of the first inning, both coming with two outs. Kendall Swann and Kimberlyn Miketey each hit RBIs to score those runs.

The Huskies cut the 2-0 deficit in half in the bottom of the first when Finck hit her first home run. The score remained at 2-1 until the bottom of the third.

JCC tied the game when Sawyer Flatgard scored on an error. Finck then stepped up and hit her second solo homer of the game to give JCC a 3-2 lead on a line drive to left field.

The Cardinals then hit a home run of their own in the top of the fourth to tie the game again when Miketey drove one over the left field fence. The back-and-forth affair continued as JCC regained the lead when Lauren Johnson scored on a wild pitch.

After Redwood Valley tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth on a Kaelynn Welsh RBI single, the Huskies began to pull away.

RBIs from Johnson and then Brielle Tufvesson gave them a 6-4 lead. Tufvesson then scored on a wild pitch before two more runs were scored on an error. The 10th and final run was scored on a bases-loaded walk.

Wachal pitched a complete game and gave up three earned runs, but struck out an impressive 19 Redwood Valley batters.

"I honestly didn't know I had that many (strikeouts)," she said. "I didn't really think that. We've been pitching a lot because we've had a lot of games, I was just trying to keep it like 'use your legs, keep throwing hard and good things will happen.'"

JCC totaled 10 hits with Finck and Johnson each getting three, Flatgard getting two and then Wachal and Tufvesson each getting one. Fink had two RBIs, while Clara Brinks, Miley VanDeVere, Johnson and Tufvesson each had one.

Redwood Valley had six hits in the game with Swann and Miketey combining for four of them. Swann also started in the circle and struck out six.

Redwood Valley 200 101 0 — 4

Jackson County Central 102 106 X — 10

Jackson County Central 2, Windom Area 0

After a brilliant performance in the circle from Hadley Wachal against Redwood Valley, her younger sister Mady, a freshman, started the second game against a very good Windom team and pitched a shutout.

Runs were difficult to come by in the game, but the Huskies took advantage with runs early before keeping the Eagles offense from scoring.

"We weren't expecting going into that game for an outcome like that," Hadley said. "We kind of were expecting more but we pulled through and still managed to do it."

The first run from JCC came in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Finck and Hadley Wachal hit back-to-back singles before VanDeVere reached on an error that scored the courtesy runner Brinks for a 1-0 lead.

Windom looked to answer in the bottom of the first. Kadyn Paulsen led off with a walk and then Tristyn Maras hit a one-out single. Both runners then advanced to second and third with two outs before a groundout to first stranded them.

JCC then started the second inning with a single from Braelyn Boogerd before she advanced to second on an error. Then, Mady Wachal smacked a two-out RBI single to give the Huskies their second run, which also proved to be the final run of the game.

The Eagles had plenty of chances to score throughout the rest of the game, but Mady's pitching, along with strong defense from JCC kept many Eagle runners at bay.

"We were just really focused and trusting everyone," Mady said.

Brita Tjentland was left stranded at second base in the bottom of the second for Windom and the Eagles would threaten again in the fourth.

Charlee Huska singled and then Leah Hauge walked to put runners at first and second. Both runners advanced on a Tjentland sacrifice bunt. Alivia Letcher then bunted into a fielder's choice that caught Hauge out before a strikeout ended the inning, stranding two more Eagle runners.

Perhaps the Eagles best scoring opportunity came in the fifth. Paulsen again led off with a walk and then Elliott O'Donnell followed with a single. Two outs later, Huska was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But a Hauge groundout to first left the bases loaded, ending yet another good chance to score.

In the top of the sixth, the Windom defense had a highlight of its own when JCC looked to break the game open. Finck singled for the Huskies to start and then VanDeVere walked with one out.

Johnson then stepped up and hit a fly ball right to Eagle center fielder Hailey Veenker.

Brinks, again in as a courtesy runner for JCC, advanced to third on a previous wild pitch and then tried to score off Johnson's pop fly. But a hard, accurate throw from Veenker to Hauge caught Brinks out at the plate in a big double play to save a run and end the inning.

The Eagles couldn't capitalize at the plate though after that as Mady and the JCC defense forced a quick 1-2-3 inning. They again tried to respond in the bottom of the seventh with one last chance, but Mady struck out the side to end the game and send the Huskies into celebration.

On top of her two-hit performance at the plate, Mady was dealing in the circle as well, giving up only four hits and striking out 11 batters in a shutout win.

"Just trusting my defense and throwing hard to hopefully get a win," Mady said about her pitching performance.

Pitching for Windom was sophomore Anja Nielsen. After JCC scored the two early runs, Nielsen pitched well and kept her team in the game. She gave up just seven hits and struck out eight.

With the loss, the Eagles move to the elimination bracket, where they'll try to fight their way back for the section title. They are 14-7 on the season and will face Litchfield, the No. 5 seed out of the north subsection who lost to top seed Dassel-Cokato 7-0. The game will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Marshall Softball Complex.

Dassel-Cokato is who the Huskies will face Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the main bracket. The Huskies are 17-5 on the season and are currently on an eight-game win streak. They are attempting to make their second-straight section semifinal appearance with a win.

"We're definitely playing our best right now," Mady said.

"I think when we get to the postseason, we always play our best softball," Hadley added. "Like no matter what happens at the beginning of the year we are always playing our best softball."

Jackson County Central 110 000 0 — 2

Windom Area 000 000 0 — 0