Austin falls short at state

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2002

NORTH MANKATO -- It's hard to accept defeat when you feel like you beat yourself, especially in consecutive games at the State Softball Tournament.

But that was the attitude portrayed by the Austin High School softball squad at the end of a long day Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Missed opportunities offensively and defensive miscues caused the Packers a pair of losses and elimination from the eight-team field at the Class AAA tournament.

Riding a nine-game win streak into state, Austin ended the season 20-5 overall and completed the school's eighth state tournament appearance with some business still left unfinished.

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The Packers were unable to bring home the school's fourth state championship, losing 5-2 to Fridley in Friday's opening round and 2-1 to White Bear Lake Area (WBLA) in the consolation semifinals that evening. Austin committed four errors in each game and stranded a total of 17 runners on base.

"We have to be happy with the way the season went," said junior pitcher Amy Kelly. "Only eight teams make it to this point, but we definitely wanted to end on a win for Chelsea (McColley).

"We were in an excellent position to make a run at it this year."

McColley, who was named to play in today's All-Star Series at Mankato, was the only AHS senior on the season-ending roster. Outfielder Stacy Draayer did not make the trip to state after a knee injury stopped her high school career during the postseason.

McColley left Mankato immediately after the final defeat in order to make it back to Austin for graduation ceremonies, still distraught from back-to-back losses.

"The fact remains that we weren't the best that we could be," AHS coach Todd Waterbury said. "I'm sure they made the best effort in their hearts. It was a great season, this whole experience has been fantastic."

Tripped by Fridley

Austin was making its third trip to state in Coach Waterbury's fourth season at the helm, but missed its chance to make a run at the title after falling to Fridley in the first round. Packer leadoff hitter Kylene Erstad was hit with the first pitch of the tournament and scored two outs later on a single up the middle by Kelly.

The Packers' first lead would eventually become their last as the Tigers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the first. Austin committed two errors and Kelly surrendered three hits, including a wind-aided two-run triple to right field with two outs and a 1-1 score.

Austin recovered only to score once more. Nicole Turvey reached with a leadoff walk in the fourth and scored two outs later on a single by Erstad.

Fridley added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth to seal the first-round victory.

"The first game I think was nerves," Kelly said. "I think maybe there was a little bit of intimidation as far at the atmosphere. Errors just killed us.

Austin's four defensive miscues were more than the Packers made during the entire Section 1AAA tournament (three).

"We haven't had to deal with that a whole lot lately," Coach Waterbury said after the game. "They were really loose and not nervous at all, but we had too many mistakes.

"We didn't deal with our mishaps very well. I don't think the team responded as well as they have in the past. You don't expect to make those kinds of errors at the end of the season."

Each team had seven hits in the game but Fridley made the most of Austin's troubles. The Tigers advanced into the semifinal round, while AHS fell into the consolation bracket.

"A lot of credit has to go to the other team," Waterbury said. "They hit the outside pitch and we had to adjust. We hung in there but we didn't get the breaks to go our way."

Austin loaded the bases with one out in the third inning, trailing 3-1. Betsy Hingeveld, McColley and Kelly reached with consecutive singles, but Keri Feller's line-drive to the right side was gloved by the Fridley second baseman. Steph Eslinger, who had a tough day defensively, rolled out to first to end the threat.

Troubles continue

Eslinger had four of Austin's eight errors on the day, but an acrobat tag to nab a White Bear Lake runner stealing in the Packers' second game sparked the team into comeback mode. Bears second baseman Julie Mahre swiped second safely in the first inning and scored WBLA's go-ahead run, but she was thrown out by Feller after a collision at the other end of the diamond.

Austin showed signs of life and eventually scored the tying run in the bottom of the fourth. Feller led off with a single to right, and courtesy runner Meggan Rider advanced on a wild pitch and Eslinger's perfect sacrifice bunt. Turvey drobbed down another bunt to squeeze home Rider and the Packers were back in the hunt.

"In the middle of the game we made it pretty constant, I thought we did improve and do a lot better job of maintaining our poise," Coach Waterbury said. "We had a couple scoring opportunities that just didn't go our way. We really had to work hard for our runs."

Austin put two runners on with two outs in both the fifth and sixth innings but were unable to score each occasion. Steph Sundberg and Caitlin Jurgenson reached with a pair of two-out walks in the bottom of the sixth, but Erstad -- trying to bunt for a hit -- came into contact with the batted ball while sprinting towards first and was called out.

White Bear Lake took the initiative in the seventh, cashing in on two more Austin errors to score on a two-out single to right by pitcher Cassi Erhardt. Erhardt had struck out in both previous at-bats.

"It was low and outside and she did a good job going with the pitch," Kelly said.

Katie Wenzel, who reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and third and scored the game-winning run one out later. The Packers' 2-3-4 hitters went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.

"To put the whole thing in summary, this was very memorable and I hope they keep it as a part of them forever," Coach Waterbury said of his team's run to state. "It's something that I'm sure will be a goal for us next year, but for right now I want to reminisce a little bit and think back to all the positives."

Austin was co-champions of the Big Nine Conference with a 15-2 league record and avenged their only non-conference loss to Lakeville by beating the Panthers to earn the state tournament berth. Draayer and McColley are the only graduates from the Austin High roster, keeping hopes high for the Packers and next season.

"We're going to be solid again next year," Kelly said. "We have tons of confidence, I think we'll make a good run at it again."

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at

State Softball

Class AAA

Friday, June 7


Prior Lake 2, Brainerd 1, 12 innings

Park of Cottage Grove 5, Cloquet 0

Eden Prairie 2, White Bear Lake 0, 10 innings

Fridley 5, Austin 2

Consolation semifinals

Cloquet 1, Brainerd 0

White Bear Lake 2, Austin 0


Park of Cottage Grove 10, Prior Lake 0

Eden Prairie 1, Fridley 0

Saturday, June 8

Consolation championship

Cloquet 6, White Bear Lake 5

Third Place

Fridley 2, Prior Lake 1


Eden Prairie 4, Park of Cottage Grove 3

Class AA

Friday, June 7


Winona Cotter 9, Warroad 1

Hermantown 4, Maple River 3

Brooklyn Center 6, Waconia 1

Big Lake 1, Jackson County Central 0, 8 innings

Consolation Semifinals

Maple River 3, Warroad 1

Jackson County Central 3, Waconia 1, 11 innings


Hermantown 3, Winona Cotter 0

Big Lake 3, Brooklyn Center 1

Saturday, June 8

Consolation championship

Maple River 12, Jackson County Central 3

Third Place

Winona Cotter 9, Brooklyn Center 0


Hermantown vs. Big Lake, 12:30 p.m.

Class A

Friday, June 7


Barnum 1, Elgin-Millville 0

St. Bernard's 1, Mankato Loyola 0

Isle 6, Wabasso 1

Hill City 3, East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 1

Consolation semifinals

Mankato Loyola 1, Elgin-Millville 0, 11 innings

East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 12, Wabasso 2, 6 innings


St. Bernard's 6, Barnum 0

Hill City 3, Isle 2

Saturday, June 8

Consolation championship

Mankato Loyola vs. East Grand Forks Sacred Heart, 2 p.m.

Third Place

Barnum vs. Isle-Hill City loser, 2 p.m.


St. Bernard's vs. Isle-Hill City winner, 2:30 p.m.