State softball: First-inning charge leads Rogers to upset win over Forest Lake

NORTH MANKATO – Forest Lake sophomore catcher Karianne Drury hadn’t hit a home run all season.

But with her team trailing 6-3 in the fifth inning of the Class 4A state semifinals, Drury knew her team needed a hit. She got her bat on a pitch down the middle and up in the zone, sent the ball up into the wind and sent it sailing over the fence to bring Forest Lake within one.

“I just knew I had to get it going,” Drury said. “I just had a lot of adrenaline pumping, and I got my team hyped that inning.”

Those are the types of moments that have powered the Rangers to three consecutive state tournament finals. But there weren’t quite enough of them Thursday to make it four straight, as Forest Lake fell 7-5 to third-seeded Rogers at Caswell Park.

Rogers will meet New Prague in the Class 4A title game at 10 a.m. Friday in North Mankato after the Royals tallied four runs on the strength of five hits in the first inning, and tacked on two more runs in the third. Rogers finished with 13 hits.

Rogers senior shortstop Lauren Freeberg led the charge with three hits and two runs scored.

“Just doing it for our team,” she said of Rogers’ success. “We’re all super, super good friends. All of my best friends are on this team, so just wanting to do it for each other, for my last season – I want to do it for the team.”

It certainly was a collective effort for Rogers (21-3), as each of the top eight batters in the order collected at least one hit as the Royals managed to produce against second-seeded Forest Lake’s top-two arms – Hannah Tong and Avery Muellner.

Forest Lake (19-5) battled back with offense of its own. Muellner and Tong each had two hits. After falling down 4-0, Ava Stenglein belted a three-run shot in the second to make it 4-3.

“We never give up. We’re all competitive and we want to win,” Drury said. “We knew what this meant for our seniors, and we just had to keep it going.”

But every time Forest Lake mounted a charge, Rogers had a response ready.

The Rangers will meet Rosemount in the third-place game at 9 a.m. Friday.

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