Rangers wrap up regular season ranked No. 2 in the state

Natalie Wright congratulates Mikayla Watters (left) after a great grab in last week's win over Stillwater. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

The perfect season is no more, but the Ranger softball team has earned a nice consolation prize: a final regular season record of 19-1 and a big win up north has the team positioned to again claim the top seed in the Section 7AAA tournament. Forest Lake hosts the final rounds of the event, meaning the team will not play a single road game on its quest to reach a fifth straight state tournament. That journey will begin with a home quarterfinal game next Thursday, May 24.

Forest Lake put the finishing touches on the schedule with a 5-4 win in White Bear Lake on Monday. The win improved its Suburban East Conference record to 17-1, which will end up being either five or six games better than the runner-up.

The Rangers got ahead 5-1 and held on against the Bears. Jenn Zidar drove in a run with a single in the first and Dana Mogren had an RBI double in the third. A three-run fourth broke the game open. Emily Lindstrom, KP Palo and Natalie Wright had run-scoring hits in the frame.

The hosts scored twice in the fifth and hit a home run in the seventh to make it a one-run game.

“We have talked at length about closing out games and keeping the momentum on our side once we have it,” said coach Angie Ryan. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But we are 19-1 going into sections and will have the No. 1 seed, so we feel good about that.”

Rangers 13,
Greyhounds 0

Rangers 1, Hunters 0

The Rangers played Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld back-to-back in Duluth on Friday. They routed East 13-0 in six innings to start the evening. Sophomore Rachael Harrington pitched a complete-game one-hitter. Mogren went 3-4 with four RBI and three runs scored. Shannon Nelson was 3-4 and scored three times. Zidar was also 3-4.

“Duluth didn’t hand us the runs – we really earned them and when there’s 13 of them, you can feel good about the offense,” Ryan said.

The blowout set up a big showdown with Denfeld, a section rival which entered the game with a record of 14-1.

Forest Lake broke through in the fifth inning. Mikayla Watters singled and made it to second on a misplay by the left fielder. After Watters took third on a sacrifice bunt, she scored on a fly out by pinch-hitter Maggie Forsell.

Michelle LaCasse pitched the first 5.1 innings, allowing four hits. Micah McGuiness tossed 1.2 innings of hitless relief for the save.

“Michelle LaCasse pitched outstanding,” Ryan said. “Denfeld has some strong hitters as well and LaCasse was able to keep them off balance…It’s fun to see our depth on the mound.”

Ryan feels the Hunters will be a tough challenge in the section tourney.

“We were really impressed with Denfeld,” she said. “They played extremely good defense against us, turning double plays, fielding some good bunts cleanly and making some solid catches in the outfield.”

Micah McGuiness tossed a two-hit shutout on Senior Night. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Rangers 1, Ponies 0

Stillwater and Forest Lake started last Thursday’s Senior Night here with six-and-a-half innings of scoreless softball. That left just enough time for the hosts to pull out a 1-0, walk-off win.

Watters doubled to open the final inning and Lindstrom followed with a single. Stillwater staved off the loss for one out as Forest Lake’s suicide squeeze attempt did not work, but a passed ball on a full count then allowed Lindstrom to race home.

McGuiness tossed the shutout, allowing only two hits and no walks. Wright and Watters each had two hits. Forest Lake’s outfielders recorded 14 put outs to lead the defense.

McGuiness, Nelson, Forsell and Andrea Mogren were the Senior Night honorees.

Raiders 5, Rangers 4

It took a two-run single with two outs in the final inning for Forest Lake to finally lose its first game of the season. The loss came last Wednesday in Roseville and it ended Forest Lake’s 15-game winning streak.

The Rangers led 4-3 going into the last inning but the Raiders hit four singles in the frame to walk off with the upset.

“It was good to get the undefeated thing out of the way at this point in the season,” Ryan said. “We obviously, didn’t want to lose, but it’s a lot better to lose now than in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, this loss will refocus us a little bit. I think it will, the girls were quite upset after the game. They really, really care.”

Forsell went 3-3 with two RBIs, and Mogren added two hits. Both LaCasse and McGuiness pitched.