Austin 16U wins Southern Minny title

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

Austin U16 third baseman McKayla Swenson puts the tag down on Albert Lea's Kassi Hardies on a pick-off attempt Thursday evening at Todd Park. -- Eric Johnson/

The Austin 16U softball team took care of the business at hand as it wrapped up the Southern Minny Conference Title at Todd Park Thursday.

Austin’s Abby Bickler, who will be a sophomore this fall, has had already lot of big sports moments in her high school career as she placed fourth in the floor exercise and 16th in All-Around at the Class ‘A’ state gymnastics meet this past winter.

Austin U16 batter Erin Dankert tries to lay down a bunt against Albert Lea Thursday evening at Todd Park.

On Thursday, Bickler had one of her bigger moments as a softball player as she stepped up to the plate with the conference-clinching run at third base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

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Bickler drove grounder that took a tough hop and skipped away from AL’s second baseman to get a walk-off infield single to win 3-2 in the opener of a doubleheader.

“I just told myself I’ve been up at the plate to hit thousands of times,” Bickler said. “I was nervous and I really wanted it. I’ve kind of learned what to do under pressure from gymnastics and it kind of carried over in that situation.”

Bickler’s grounder scored Erin Dankert, who reached base on an infield single with one out. While the ball rolled away from AL’s second baseman, Bickler never had a chance to see if there would be a throw or not.

“I didn’t actually see where it went. The second I hit it, I just took off and put everything I had into it,” she said. “To get (the conference title) shows the improvement we’ve had this season and it shows how we’ve learned to work together.

Austin (21-13-1 overall) jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the nightcap, but Albert Lea tied the game with three runs in the fifth and won it with a walk-off homer with one out in the bottom of the sixth.

“It was a tale of two games. The first game we were intense and focused and we have to learn to play that way both games,” Austin head coach Lisa Quednow-Bickler said. “Albert Lea stuck with it and we kind of let our guard down a little bit. Everything’s a learning experience.”

Despite losing one of the two games, Austin still walks away with the Southern Minny title and it had a chance to play in two close games. AL had tied the opener with a run in the top of the seventh inning and Quednow-Bickler was happy with how her team responded.

“That’s how you build success and winning teams is putting kids in those situations,” she said. “You take the good and the bad and that’s what summer’s for.”

Abbey Ball picked up the win in the opener as she struck out eight and allowed just one earned run in seven innings of work.

Haley Newman gave Austin a boost in the nightcap as she blooped a two-out, two-run single to center field to give Austin a 4-0 lead that it couldn’t hold.

Austin’s regular season is over and it will play in the ASA 16U ‘C’ state tournament in the Twin Cities July 21-22.

AL 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 — 2 5 2

Austin 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 — 3 6 1

Austin pitching: Abbey Ball (W), 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 R, 1 ER, 8 K

Austin hitting: Haley Kiefer, 0-for-4; Abby Bickler, 2-for-4, RBI, SB; Shaley Vesel, 0-for-3; Ball, 1-for-3, triple; Sydney Murphy, 1-for-3, RBI, R; McKenna Gleisner, 0-for-1, 2 BBs; McKayla Swenson, 0-for-3, RBI; Keisha Berg, 1-for-3; Erin Dankert, 1-for-3, R; Haley Newman, R

Austin 4 2 0 0 0 0 — 6 9 3

AL 2 0 0 1 3 1 — 7 10 1

Austin pitching: Gleisner (L), 5 1/3 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 7 R, 4 ER, 1 HBP

Austin hitting: Kiefer, 0-for-2, R, BB; Bickler, 1-for-2, R, SB, HBP; Murphy, 1-for-3, RBI, R, BB; Ball, 2-for-3, RBI, 2 R; Vesel, 1-for-3, R; Gleisner, 2-for-3, RBI; Swenson, 0-for-3; Newman, 1-for-3, 2 RBIs; Dankert, 1-for-3