Rangers take section title, set record for consecutive state appearances
Ten Rangers are hitting above .300. Six are hitting above .400. Junior Natalie Wright and senior Jennifer Zidar are All-State, while junior Alexa Bremer earned All-State Honorable Mention and senior Dana Mogren is a nominee for Gatorade Player of the Year and Ms. Softball.
And after two section final wins over Anoka last week, Forest Lake is the first Class AAA softball team to compete in the state tournament six years in a row.
In the first game, a 10-5 win over the No. 9 Tornadoes last Wednesday, senior Michelle LaCasse earned the win on the mound for the Rangers alongside an errorless defense.
Forest Lake’s offensive force produced 14 hits, led by Mogren who went 3-4 with three RBIs and was a triple away from hitting for the cycle, and Zidar who went 3-4 with two RBIs. Senior Taylor Shortly went 2-4 with a double, single and an RBI, while junior Mikayla Watters and Wright both went 2-4.
Head coach Angie Ryan said the five runs for Anoka were more than the Rangers were used to giving up, but her squad’s ability to relax in the batter’s box is what pulled them through for the win.
“We hit an hour a day, and that is something we’re diligent about,” Ryan said. “It helps to have a team full of good hitters when you can score early, set the tone and put the other team on their heels.”
In the final win over Anoka to clinch the section title last Thursday, junior Rachael Harrington, who has been out due to injury much of the season, recorded the win with seven innings pitched, giving up seven hits and just one run with six strikeouts in a 6-1 victory.
Leading on offense for the Rangers were Wright, who went 3-4 with three doubles and one RBI; Bremer, who went 3-4 with two doubles, a single and an RBI; and Watters, who went 2-3 with a home run, single and two RBIs.
The No. 3 Forest Lake squad begins the state tournament today, June 6 at 22-2 and faces a 20-5 Farmington team at 9 a.m. at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
Forest Lake will be looking to its offense to carry it through the tournament. The six Rangers hitting above .400 are Bremer (.494), Wright (.471), Watters (.457), sophomore Bailey Armstrong (.444) who suffered a dislocated kneecap last week, sophomore Kalynn Tilton (.436) and Zidar (.423). Harrington (.375), sophomore Chase Shortly (.356), Taylor Shortly (.352) and Mogren (.329) will also be key contributors at the plate.
LaCasse and Harrington along with sophomores Halley Osdick and Amanda Gemuenden will all be ready to go on the mound. LaCasse has 20 games under her belt so far this season for a total of 115 innings pitched, 76 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.70. Harrington brings an ERA of 1.08 to the table with 10 strikeouts in just 13 innings pitched so far.
If the Rangers defeat Farmington this morning, they face either No. 5 Elk River (18-3) or No. 8 Orono (20-3) at 3 p.m. today in the semifinal round. The championship game takes place Friday, June 7, at 1 p.m.
As for the matchup against the Tigers, Ryan said she feels good about the outcome.
“On paper we’re better,” Ryan said. “But we just have to go out there and prove it. If we continue to hit and control our nerves, we will do well.”