The Kindred-Richland softball team has come full circle in its three-year existence.
From girls showing up to practice without gloves and wearing sundresses their first year to finishing third at the Class B state tournament last year, the Vikings took the next step by winning the program's first championship Saturday at South Hill Complex. Kindred-Richland junior pitcher Greta Klinnert struck out Central Cass junior Jessie Roesler to seal the Vikings' 3-2 victory over the defending state champion Squirrels.
"It feels great," Kindred-Richland coach Mike Oehlke said. "This is the third year of the program and they've made big strides. It's been a great opportunity for me to see that."
The Kindred-Richland softball team holds up the championship trophy after defeating Central Cass for the Class B state title Saturday at South Hill Complex.
The three runs were the second-fewest in a winning effort for the Vikings. They defeated May-Port-C-G 1-0 in the opening round of the East Region tournament. Kindred-Richland (19-4) entered the championship game averaging 10.2 runs per contest. The Vikings finished with just two hits, but took advantage of Central Cass miscues while Klinnert kept the Squirrels' high-powered offense in check.
Klinnert worked out of a jam in the first inning. Central Cass put runners on the corners with one out and loaded the bases with two outs. But Klinnert struck out junior Macie Romsdal to keep the Squirrels off the board. Klinnert finished with 11 strikeouts, fanning every Central Cass batter at least once.
"I really had to rely on my offense," Klinnert said. "The strikeouts were a plus. Casselton's a great hitting team and we just had to put the ball into play. The scores were low and that's what a championship game is and that keeps the intensity up."
The Vikings gave Klinnert an early lead, plating an unearned run in the bottom of the first. Junior Carley Knudsen reached base and advanced to second on a throwing error before scoring on a sacrifice fly by classmate Cheyenne Peterson.
The Squirrels (18-5) came back with a run in the third to tie the game. Junior Alissa Erickson led off the inning with a double and came around to score on an RBI single up the middle by classmate Sierra Amundson. Erickson and Amundson were a combined 5-for-7 with two RBIs and a run scored. The rest of the order went 3-for-22. Central Cass stranded Amundson on third in the frame and six in the game.
"Kindred's a really good team," Central Cass coach Scott Kost said. "Greta pitched an awesome ballgame. We couldn't string a couple of hits together in the end, so it's tough. They played a great ballgame and they beat us."
Kindred-Richland responded with two runs in the bottom of the third to grab the lead for good. Knudsen, who recorded the Vikings' first hit of the game with one out in the third, and senior Molly Pfeifer scored on a throwing error by junior Jaden Spooner at third. The Squirrels committed four errors, the first two resulting in all three runs.
"Those two errors hurt us, but three runs shouldn't beat us," Kost said. "We're a better hitting team than that and we just couldn't string them together."
Central Cass got within 3-2 in the fifth when Erickson scored Bresnahan on a single to right. The first two batters reached base before Klinnert struck out the next two and got Spooner to ground into a fielder's choice. She retired the Squirrels in order in the sixth and struck out the side in the seventh.
"Her first year she didn't even pitch," Oehlke said. "She works really hard. She throws all winter long and plays a lot in the summer. She's just a really hard worker."
Freshman Madison Foss suffered the loss in the circle for the Squirrels. She allowed three runs on two hits, struck out one and walked another.
The Vikings won the two regular-season meetings by a combined score of 32-19, but Oehlke wasn't surprised by the lack of runs Saturday.
"These guys always play us close," he said. "In fact, these guys always kick our butt except this year has gone the other way, but we knew it was going to be a tough game."
This was the second time in three years the Squirrels had dropped a one-run decision in the championship game. Central Cass fell 2-1 to Enderlin-Maple Valley in the inaugural Class B title game in 2012.
Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau 1, Enderlin-Maple Valley 0
Sam Colman drove in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the sixth as the Sioux took third in their first state tournament appearance.
Colman plated Jacie Ceglowski with an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch. W-N-B finished with three hits - two in the sixth.
Colman also picked up the win in the circle, pitching a three-hit shutout, striking out seven.
Stanley 6, Hankinson-Fairmount-Liderwood
3, 8 innings
The Blue Jays scored a run in the fifth and sixth to force extras and plated three in the eighth to take fifth.
Sarah Taylor hit a solo shot in the sixth inning to tie the game at 3 and connected on a double to score both Rebekah Taylor and Megan Mills in the eighth. Sarah Taylor would later score to push Stanley's lead to three.
The Pirates scored all their runs in the fourth. Elizabeth Asp hit a two-run triple and later scored on an RBI single by Harmony Burns.
Rebekah Taylor recorded the win in the circle, allowin three runs on six hits, striking out 10.
Watford City 4
The Wolves finished eighth for the second straight state tournament, allowing a run in all seven innings. They allowed 15 hits and committed six errors.
Watford City fell behind in each of the first two innings before scorign three runs in the bottom of the second to grab a 4-3 lead. It soon evaporated as Grafton scored 11 unanswered runs to close out the game and take seventh.
Megan Oslowski and Karly Kennelly each had three hits. Kennelly recorded two doubles and Oslowski touched home four times.
The Wolves finished with six hits, five coming in the first two innings.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24-MDN.