Eagles halt Cardinals’ playoff surge

MARSHALL – Second-year Fairmont head softball coach Terry Ehlert and his Cardinals’ Cinderella softball season ended at the hands of a familiar foe during Tuesday’s second Section 3AA elimination clash in Marshall.

Micaela Gochanour’s pivotal tiebreaking two-run double and Kristen Campe’s three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning propelled the upset-minded Cardinals to a 9-4 victory over the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta Tigers in the initial elimination playoff clash on Tuesday.

Brittany Hoffmann and the defending Class AA state champion New Ulm Eagles – a South Central Conference rival of the Cardinals – downed Fairmont, 10-4, in Game 2 in Marshall.

The Cardinals, which reached the section tournament’s final three for the first time in the program’s history, ended the season with an 11-11 record. The 11 victories breaks the previous school single-season mark of 10 established in both 2004 and 2006.

“No one really thought we could make it this far, but these girls believed and made it happen. They’re a great bunch of players and we’ll return the majority of them next season,” said Ehlert.

Hoffmann pounded out a game-high four RBIs on the strength of three hits, including a two-run homer in the fourth inning, to power the high-octane Eagles to an early 8-0 edge.

The Cardinals, however, refused to go down without a fight, scratching out a run in the top of the sixth when Courtney Whitmore singled and eventually scored on Mariah Thate’s RBI grounder.

Fairmont plated three runs off of New Ulm reliever Tori Botton in the bottom of the seventh. Aly Eversman and Mikayla Krzywicki led off with back-to-back singles before Courtney Guetter delivered an RBI single. Whitmore, who went 2-for-3 in Game 2, singled home Krzywicki before Guetter later scored.

Gochanour, one of the hitting heroes against the Tigers in Game 1, went 2-for-4 for the Cardinals in the nightcap.

Taylor Schultze allowed eight runs on 12 hits in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss for Fairmont in Game 2.

Sydney Schuck allowed two hits in five shutout innings, striking out seven to earn the victory for New Ulm.

In Game 1, Fairmont erased a 4-1 deficit to MACA when Thate lined a leadoff double, wheeled to third base on Eversman’s bloop single and scored when Krzywicki’s grounder was mishandled.

Guetter followed with an RBI groundout before Gochanour’s scorched grounder was misplayed to knot the game at 4-all.

Eversman then triggered the Cardinals’ five-run game-winning outburst during the top of the seventh by hammering a leadoff double.

Guetter later reached on an error before Gochanour smacked a tiebreaking two-run double into the left-field corner. Whitmore walked before Campe crushed a pitch over the left-field fence for a game-clinching three-run blast.

Krzywicki retired the Tigers in order during the last of the seventh to seal her complete-game victory. The Cardinals’ ace right-hander allowed four runs on 11 hits, struck out two, walked two and hit one in seven innings of work to earn the victory.

Gochanour went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in Game 1, while Campe and Eversman each collected two hits.

Becca Holland went 3-for-3 with one RBI for MACA, while Brianna Abril and Abby Daly added two hits and one RBI each.