by CHRIS ROGERS
Five innings is all it took for the Winhawks softball team to put another win in the books, as they glided past the Faribault Falcons 13-1 last Saturday.
The Winhawks got off to a commanding start right away in the first inning, with RBIs from Macy McNally and Ava Hamsund. Hamsund stole a base off a late throw to home plate, and Olivia Poulin hit another RBI to bring the score to 3-0 with two outs. Faribault couldn’t close out the inning, however, and the Winhawks scored three more runs, with Mackenzi Simmons hitting an RBI double to centerfield and Alma Johnson sending another RBI double to the back fence. A single from Hannah Lee scored one more runner to make it 6-0, and the Winhawks threatened to score more before Faribault threw out McNally at first to end the scoring spree.
In the top of the second, Winhawk starter Makayla Steffes struck out two to stifle the Falcons offense. Back at the plate, the Winhawks were primed to keep running up the score. Paige Grafton, Hamsund, and Poulin each hit singles to load the bases with one out. Under pressure, the Falcons defense answered, striking out the next batter and catching a pop fly to end the inning and leave the Winhawk runners stranded.
Hamslund took the pitcher’s mound in the top of the third, and Winona’s defense quickly retired the Falcon hitters. However, in the bottom of the third, good fielding from Faribault left Winona with one runner on and two outs as Grace Fricke took the plate. Undeterred, Fricke ripped a home run over the back fence, scoring Steffes and putting the Winhawks up 8-0. Not to be outdone, the next batter up, Grafton, sent a solo homer soaring toward the bluffs to make it 9-0 Winhawks.
Fricke was all smiles after the game. “We’ve always talked about it — hitting them back to back,” she said of her and Grafton’s homers. “And we finally did it.”
Faribault’s offense started to find its stride in the fourth. The Winhawks gave up a walk and a single to put runners on first and second, then another crack from the Falcons’ bats scored their first run of the game. The next batter connected to load the bases with one out, and suddenly, Faribault threatened to make a comeback. However, solid fielding from the Winhawks and a quick throw to home held the Falcons off, and Hamslund threw a strikeout to strand the remaining runners and end Faribault’s chance at a rally.
In the bottom of the fourth, Simmons scored off a Lee RBI, and Steffes sent a blast to the outfield to bring two runners home and advance to second base herself, making it 12-1 Winona. Avery Engbrecht batted in a 13th run, and, with the bases loaded again, the Falcons narrowly stopped the Winhawks from scoring more.
A walk and a wild pitch put the Falcons back in scoring position in the fifth. But Winhawks catcher McNally caught Faribault runners cheating toward home, and she — with help from Engbrecht — threw out back-to-back runners at third to close out the game.
“It took us a while to adjust to the slower pitching, but we made the adjustment,” Winhawks Head Coach Mitch Grossell said, adding that Faribault had made big strides over the season.
The Winhawks are 14-4 with sectionals just around the corner. Asked if she had any expectations for the tournament, Grafton said, “Winning and going to state — that’s our goal.”