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Softball: Irish battle the best in 3AAA

Rosemount’s Nichole Johnson launches a long fly ball to center field during last Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Lakeville North in the Section 3AAA tournament semifinals. The Irish finished the season with a record of 16-8.

The Rosemount softball team showed it belonged alongside two of the best teams in the state during the Section 3AAA tournament.

The Irish went 3-2 during the tournament, their first loss coming 2-0 at the hands of fourth-ranked Bloomington Jefferson and their second a 3-2 heartbreaker to second-ranked Lakeville North in last Wednesday’s semifinals at Richfield Middle School. The Irish had the Panthers on the ropes, leading 2-1 for much of the game before allowing two runs on three singles in the top of the seventh.

Tournament wins over Eagan, Park and Eastview pushed Rosemount’s final record to 16-8, by far its best since Tiffany Rose took over as head coach.

“This team was so successful because it kept getting better. Every game they would come out and do things a little better than they had the game before,” Rose said. “We talked about that at the very first practice of the season. It’s not about what we can do right now, it’s about how we play in the section tournament.

“All around this is just wonderful group of players. They work hard, are good teammates and stepped up and competed with the two best teams in the state. They have a lot to be proud of.”

The Irish scored both of their runs against North in the second inning when they strung together four of their six hits. Anna Hinderaker brought in the first run with a two-out infield single and Nina Kayfes followed with her second single to make it 2-0.

Starting pitcher Gabby Sprang allowed one run in the third, then kept the Panthers in check until the seventh. She finished with five strikeouts.

A day earlier, all three of Rosemount’s hits came during a three-run second inning in the Irish’s 3-1 win over Eastview. Hinderaker supplied the first hit, a single to left, but Nicole Hutchinson was thrown out at the plate. Nichole Johnson followed with a two-run single and Sarah Jacobs supplied another single to score Johnson and make it 3-0.

Sprang went the distance and held the Lightning to one run on four hits.

In the first game of the consolation bracket doubleheader, Sprang held Park to five hits and the Irish kept their season alive with a 5-2 victory.

Hutchinson led the offense, going 3 for 3 with two runs scored. Hinderaker, Johnson and Jacobs each added two hits. Johnson’s two-run single game the Irish a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth.