Austin hasn’t been the most pleasant place for Chatfield softball. The past decade, it has never been a stop on the way to state, despite multiple great teams. There have been multiple disappointments; the Sydney Irish ground ball that didn’t go thru in extra innings in 2014 versus K-W (which would’ve sent Chatfield to state), the 11-inning loss to FC/L in 2015, all the years that stand-out Lexi Chase pitched that always ended with a loss at Todd Park (including the 22 straight win season, only for two losses in Austin). And then there was the last year Chase was to pitch (2020), that never happened because of COVID. Finally, Chatfield made it through!
The Gophers (1AA-East champ, 22-1) started with the “chair” game versus Cannon Falls (1AA West Champ, 16-7). In the second inning, after a pop-up single and a walk, with two outs, playoff hot hitter Brynn Irish delivered a two-strike, two-run single. Chatfield jumped out 2-0. But one can argue that the Bombers didn’t beat the Gophers; Chatfield beat themselves. It happened in the fourth inning. A walk and two hit batsmen by pitcher Claire Springer loaded the bases. The miscues were uncharacteristic. Springer entered the game with zero HBPs. She walked zero in big games with Cotter and St. Charles. Chloe Lingelbach then delivered a two-run single to tie the game 2-2. A sac fly RBI by Kyra Schoenfelder made it 3-2. A sac bunt and back-to-back errors allowed Lingelbach to plate. The Bombers led 4-2. And that was that. Chatfield couldn’t consistently hit CF pitcher Abby Breuer. The Gophers had just four hits. They left a runner at second in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The fourth saw the first two batters reach, with no advancement; Chatfield couldn’t get a sac bunt down. Breuer (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K) got her team the win. Lingelbach (2-3, 2 RBI, R) had the big hit. Madison Burr (2-2, 2B, R) also had two hits. Irish (1-3, 2 RBI) had Chatfield’s big hit. Clemens (1-2, R) and Springer (1-3, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, Loss) helped.
Chatfield then watched Zumbrota-Mazeppa upset St. Charles 5-4 in the “loser-out” game. The Gophers (22-2) faced the Cougars (16-7) in a “loser out” game. Alexis Hinckley’s base running got Chatfield on the board in the second. She stole second, and then came all the way around due to a throwing error on the play. An inning later, Kara Goetzinger singled and stole second. An error and Peyton Berg’s headiness put runners on second and third. Springer grabbed an RBI on an error, scoring Goetzinger for a 2-0 lead. The Gophers had runners on second and third with one out, but they got just the one run. Two runs were more than Springer needed. She limited Z-M to just three hits. Only two Cougar runners made scoring position. Chatfield made it academic in the sixth. With just two hits up to that point, the Gophers ripped four-straight. Clemens, Irish, and Brittin Ruskell went double, single, two-run single. Ruskell’s hit made it 4-0. Lead-off hitter Goetzinger then crushed a two-run home run. Chatfield downed Z-M 6-0 to move back to their first 1AA title game since 2014. Springer (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, Win, RBI) authored her fifth seven-inning shut-out. Goetzinger (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) and the bottom of the order, Clemens (2-3, 2B, R), Irish (1-3, R), Ruskell (1-3, 2 RBI, R), did work.
And thus, the tourney was back to Chatfield (23-2) versus Cannon Falls (17-7) for the 1AA title. All year long, it was assumed the 1AA-East sub-section was strongest, with the ranked Gophers and St. Charles, plus potent Cotter. The Gophers proved it to be true, twice, emphatically. Remember that thing about Chatfield beating itself versus the Bombers in the “chair” game? That didn’t happen. Neither did the Gophers struggle to hit CF pitcher Abby Breuer. Chatfield scored a run each in the first three innings. Hinckley hit a solo home run in the second. CF had a chance in the fourth, but left the bases loaded. A half inning later in the fifth, leading 3-0, the Gophers made it academic. Ten gals batted. Hinckley had a two-run single. Sydney Allen followed with two-run double. Chatfield plated five to lead 8-0. They forced a second section title deciding game by a final of 9-1. Berg (3-4, two 2B), Irish (3-4, 2B, RBI), Hinckley (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), and Goetzinger (2-5, 2 R) each had multiple hits. Jaiden Zimmerman (1-4, 2B, RBI, R, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and Allen (1-2, 2B, 2 RBI, R) helped. Springer (1-3, RBI, 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K) took the win. The Gophers rapped out 13 hits (five 2Bs, one HR). Breuer (4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) took the loss, giving up more than twice as many hits, four times as many runs, and with seven less strikeouts as the previous meeting. Chatfield had prepped. Former stand-out and current college pitcher Lexi Chase threw batting practice the night before. The Bombers had just five hits. Game two was then all Chatfield. The Gophers put up a seven-run second inning. Cannon Falls helped Chatfield. Breuer walked the first two batters who reached. The third made it on a dropped third strike. Two runs scored on one Bomber error. Chatfield had a trio of RBI-hits. An inning later, Chatfield added two more. Caswell Park started calling. The Gophers won the section by an 11-0 final in six innings. Jerry Chase’s group didn’t just win two games versus CF to advance to state. They won by a combined 20-1 tally. Springer pitched a two-hit shutout (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, Win). She tossed 11 shutout innings in the two games. Breuer was again tagged often (6 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, Loss). Her defense didn’t help with four errors. For the two-game series, CF out-errored Chatfield 7 to 3. Zimmerman (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) and Goetzinger (2-4, RBI, R) had multiple hits. Berg (1-4, 2 RBI), Allen (1-2, 2B, RBI, 2 R), Clemens (1-4, 2B, RBI), and Ruskell (1-3, 2 R) also contributed. The win put the Gophers at 25-2. It’s the most wins of any softball team in the “Journal Sports” era. Chatfield is also the first “Journal Sports” softball team to make state (12 years). Every other sport has had a Journal-covered team make state. It is Chatfield softball’s first state berth since 2009.