Cyclones obstruct Mavericks’ sectional path

WELCOME – The St. Clair Cyclones capitalized on an obstruction ruling to plate two runs during the top of the ninth inning to stun the Martin County West Mavericks, 11-9, during second-round Section 2A, South Sub-Section softball action on Thursday in Welcome.

No. 3-seeded St. Clair (11-5) advances to face top-seeded and Class A No. 3-ranked Mankato Loyola (19-0) in an undefeated bracket game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

No. 2-seeded Martin County West (14-4) faces No. 4-seeded Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial – a 4-3 loser to Loyola in Thursday’s second-round clash – in a 10 a.m. elimination game Saturday at Caswell Park.

“Too many chances,” said Martin County West mentor Darrell Ziegler.

Trailing 8-7 going into the bottom of the sixth inning at the Fox Lake Area Sports Complex, Jordan Gregory and Shawna Dressen delivered clutch back-to-back RBI singles with two out to put the Mavericks ahead 9-8.

Kate Thiesse lined a one-out single to center, swiped second base and wheeled to third on a throwing error to set the table for MCW’s sixth at-bat.

St. Clair right-hander Bailey Arndt then notched one of her game-high 14 strikeouts for the second out before Gregory stepped into the batter’s box.

Gregory, who was 2-for-5 on the playoff clash, drilled the game-tying RBI single to center to plate Thiesse. Gregory then stole second base and circled the bases with the go-ahead run on Dressen’s second hit of the outing.

The Cyclones, however, were down to their last out in the top of the seventh before leadoff batter Cassi Juliar knotted the game at 9-all with a pivotal RBI single to right. Juliar’s hit plated Katey Embacher, who was courtesy running for catcher Abby Drummer. Drummer had reached on an error.

Arndt then forced extra innings by retiring the Mavericks in order during the bottom of the seventh.

Both teams threatened in the eighth with no luck netting a run before the Cyclones twisted out two runs in the top of the ninth.

Haley Zabel drew a leadoff walk and took second when Drummer’s sacrifice bunt was thrown high to first base. Zabel and courtesy runner Embacher advanced 60 feet each on a wild pitch before Leah Devens dropped down a bunt in front of the plate.

MCW pitcher Rebecca Steen fielded the bunt and flipped to catcher Shawna Dressen, but Zabel jarred the softball loose via her slide. Steen alertly picked up the ball and tagged Zabel before she reached the plate, but the Cyclone runner was ruled safe.

“He (home plate umpire) said we obstructed the runner (Zabel) from getting to the plate, therefore the run scored,” said Ziegler.

Embacher later crossed the plate on Brianna Cline’s sacrifice fly to left to extend St. Clair’s margin to 11-9.

Arndt then worked around Molly Klima’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve her complete-game victory.

Dressen and Gregory each doubled and produced two RBIs for the Mavericks, while Kennedy Janssen belted a two-run single to highlight MCW’s four-run third at-bat. Steen went 2-for-3 with two walks and scored two runs, while Thiesse went 2-for-5 with a run scored.

Steen allowed 11 runs – six earned – on 12 hits, struck out 10 and walked seven in nine innings to absorb the loss.

Arndt gave up nine runs – six earned – on 10 hits, fanned 14 and walked three in nine frames to net the complete-game win.

Megan Fandrich went 3-for-5, including a key two-run double during St. Clair’s three-run third inning. Fandrich finished with three RBIs.

Juliar went 2-for-5 with one RBI and a run scored, while Arndt assisted her own cause by going 2-for-3 with two walks and one RBI for the Cyclones.

Cline doubled and netted two RBIs, while Kasey Geiger chipped in an RBI double.

STC 003 212 102 – 11 12 5

MCW 214 002 000 – 9 10 2

Bailey Arndt (WP) and Abby Drummer. Rebecca Steen (LP) and Shawna Dressen.

LOB-Martin County West 8; St. Clair 7. 2B-Jordan Gregory (MCW), Dressen (MCW), Brianna Cline (SC), Megan Fandrich (SC), Kasey Geiger (SC). SF-Cline (SC). SAC-Leah Devens (SC) 2, Drummer (SC).