Charger girls suffer tough loss in sectionals

Mindy Carls
Orion catcher Jena Malmen. attempts to tag out a Red Storm runner at home plate in the sectional semi-final game on Thursday May 28 at Charger Field.

The score doesn’t tell the whole story about Orion’s 5-1 loss to Alexis United in softball sectional semifinals on Thursday, May 28, at Charger Field.

“On paper, it looks like a very even game,” Orion coach Shelly Hutton said. “They were able to string a few more hits together than we were.”

Each team had six hits, but the Red Storm rolled to a 3-0 start with two singles, two walks and two sacrifice bunts in the first inning.

Orion starter Tori Matzen worked two innings, giving up four runs, all earned, on three hits and three walks. The senior struck out three.

Junior Hillary Taets came on in relief in the third inning. Over five innings, she yielded one earned run, three hits and three walks. She whiffed four.

Meanwhile, United pitcher Katie Bertelsen handcuffed the Chargers with 14 strikeouts during seven innings. The sophomore walked no one and allowed one run on six hits.

Still trailing midway through the game, Orion hitters started to think too much, Hutton said.

Batting leadoff, Jenna Nelson did a nice job at the plate, according to the coach.

“Nelson played an amazing game,” the coach said. 

The senior was the only Charger with multiple hits. She batted 3-for-4 with a double and two singles. The one time she did not get a base hit, she made contact and put the ball in play to the pitcher. 

Nelson was the only Orion hitter without a strikeout.

Juniors Jena Malmen and Kelly Hutton and senior Megan Blumenshein banged out one hit each. Malmen’s was a double.

When United came to bat, communicating on defense proved to be a problem for the Chargers, Hutton said. The girls had no physical errors, but they made mental mistakes.

“There were just some decisions we made that were questionable,” she said. “This time of year, the win goes to the team with the fewest mistakes, and United made fewer.”

The Alexis girls took the field determined to avenge an early-season loss to Orion. 

Right away Bertelsen surrendered a single into right field to Nelson. After striking out the next hitter, Bertelsen hit Taets with a pitch.

Orion appeared to be in good shape with two runners and only one out, but the United hurler set the next two batters down on strikes.

The Red Storm started the bottom half of the inning with a base on balls for Gina Long. Katie Kaywood followed with a bunt single.

After Sommer Foster walked, the bases were loaded for the clean-up hitter, Augusta Chandler. 

She whacked the ball through the hole into left center, and both Long and Kaywood scored.

Rachel Kenney’s sacrifice bunt advanced Foster to third base and Chandler to second.

Bertelsen lofted a sacrifice fly to Kylee Peterson in left field to bring Foster across the plate. 

Kaitlyn Winkler whiffed on a 1-2 offering from Matzen for the third out.

With one out in the top of the second, Malmen blasted a double off the center fielder’s glove and on to the fence. 

The next two batters struck out to end the inning.

Leading off the home half of the second, the Red Storm’s Alex Fell fought an epic battle with Matzen.

After five pitches, the Charger thrower had a 3-2 count on the hitter.

The next four pitches all were fouled off. Fell popped up the 10th pitch to Hutton in foul territory.

Taylor Toops also worked the count to full, but she waited out the next pitch to draw a walk. She stole second. 

Matzen struck out Long and Kaywood to end the frame.

The Chargers went down in order in the top of the third.

Foster started off the bottom half of the third with a home run, pushing the Red Storm’s advantage to 4-0.

Hutton made a pitching change. She sent Taets, who started the game as the designated player, out to the mound.

Matzen went to second base, and Nelson moved out to left field.

Taets whiffed Chandler, and she got Kenney to ground out to Matzen.

Bertelsen then put the ball in play to Taets, who threw to Alyssa Ellison at first for the out.

Still scoreless, the Chargers went down in order in the top of the fourth.

The United half of the frame started with Winkler grounding out to Taets. Facing a full-count pitch, Fell grounded out to Blumenshein at shortstop.

Toops singled into left field, but Long grounded out to Matzen to end the inning.

The Chargers picked up manufactured their only run in the top of the fifth inning.

With one out, Hutton singled into left field. Blumenshein beat out an infield hit that dropped right in front of the shortstop.

Back at the top of the order, the Chargers got a single from Nelson. Hutton scored, and on the throw home Blumenshein went to third and Nelson to second.

But the next two batters struck out and fouled out to end the scoring threat.

United got the run back in the bottom of the fifth. 

After Kaywood grounded out to Taets, Foster walked.

Chandler hit into a fielder’s choice. The bunt moved Foster to second, and Chandler was safe at first.

Kenney singled into right center. The Chargers had Foster in a rundown between third and home, but she got back to third safely.

With the bases loaded, Bertelsen grounded out to Matzen. Foster scored for what turned out to be the game’s final run.

Winkler popped up to Blumenshein to end the inning.

Bertelsen struck out the side in the top of the sixth, although with one out Matzen reached on an error.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Storm loaded the bases on two walks sandwiched around Long’s infield single.

Taets threw a 3-2 pitch by Chandler for her third strikeout of the frame.

In the top of the seventh, Bertelsen collected her 13th strikeout of the game. The next batter popped up to the first baseman.

On a 3-2 pitch, Nelson singled into left field. A passed ball sent her to second.

The next batter whiffed to end the game.

United had one error and Orion, none.

The Red Storm won the sectional and advanced to the Dakota super-sectional on Monday, June 1, but bad weather forced postponement of the game until Wednesday, June 3. United will play Dakota for a berth in the state tournament.