Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Bode
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

14U MLWR softball finishes up stellar season at nat'l tourney


August 9, 2018

Photo courtesy of Shawn Bode

Front row, left to right: Jojo Fossum, Natalie Mikrot, Janna Bode, Maci Kukuk. Back row: Alexis Hoffman, Lyndee Mlaskoch, Amanda Zimmer, Kelly Crump, Mendota Castonguay, Grace Jordan, Sarah Christy, Sandra Ribich.

The 14U Moose Lake/Willow River Bizzards softball team played in the North American Fastpitch Association Northern Nationals softball tournament the last weekend of July. The local youngsters surprised many elite teams to finish tied for ninth in an 84 team field. In a tourney that divided teams into 10 eight-team pools, the Blizzards started with an 8-5 win over the Nebraska Echoes, a team made up of Omaha area all-stars. Catcher Natalie Mikrot was on-base all three times scoring two runs, Janna Bode was 2-3, and Maci Kukuk had a key RBI single in this tilt where Sarah Christy threw a complete game.

In the winner's bracket game they then faced McHenry Elite Black, a team from Illinois who had beat Farmington 11-0. A highlight in this game was Mendota Castonguay clouting her first over the fence home run, a two run shot after Bode had hit a two run single in the third inning. This staked the locals to a 5-3 lead. Amanda Zimmer cemented things in the top of the seventh with a two run single giving her four RBIs in the game. Sarah Christy scored three runs and MLWR held on for 9-7 win with Christy getting a save in relief of Castonguay. Those opening two wins put the Blizzards in the championship game of "pool E" against a tough team from the Madison, Wisc. area called the Mad City Panic. The Panic proved too tough, scoring five runs in the final inning of a 7-2 loss for the Blizzards. Sandra Ribich, Mikrot, and Castonguay each had two hits for the Blizzards.

The teams were then divided into three tiers for bracketed play, with the Blizzards earning one of 22 spots in the top division, the Gold. After losing their first Gold bracket game to the Sioux Falls Cyclones 6-2, a few were probably secretly wishing they had gotten into the silver or bronze just so that they had a chance to play more games in this double elimination tournament. But it turns out, the Blizzards weren't quite ready to go home early.

The Blizzards looked particularly sharp in a 7-5 victory over Orland Park. Sarah Christy notched 7 K's in five innings of mound work, Ribich had a couple nice grabs in center and Amanda Zimmer had a highlight reel catch in leftfield as she went back for a ball, realized she had turned the wrong direction, turned her back to the ball spinning 360 degrees, and just as she turned back to the ball, it came down sticking into her glove like the pocket contained a magnet. Mikrot was her usual stellar self behind the plate and reached base all four times at the dish with a single, double, walk, and hit by pitch. The leadoff hitter scored three times, complemented by #2 hitter Bode who had three hits and three RBIs. Jojo Fossum added a key hit and Alexis Hoffman a big sacrifice fly in this one.

The Blizzards then had a rematch against the Mad City Panic. Blizzard #3 hitter Castonguay was 3 for 3 and clean up hitter Christy 2 for 3 with Mikrot and Bode each getting hits and scoring in both the first and third innings. Christy came on for the final three innings in relief giving up just one hit and no runs as the Blizzards held on for a 4-3 win. Lyndee Mlaskoch came away with two nice outfield catches, Bode had some nice plays at third, and shortstop Kukuk had some nifty glovework including two tough tags on steal attempts in this game that eliminated the Panic.

As the teams were down to the final 12, the competition became quite fierce and the Blizzards succumbed to another Illinois team, the Stateline Fury, 8-0. The Fury not only could hit the ball hard all the way through the line-up, but they had speed and great bunting ability that was difficult to defend. Christy had the only hit for the local team. The Gold division was won overall by the MN Magic Gold team. The Blizzards had a great experience against some of the best competition in the midwest and the players under coaches Kelly Goeb and Troy Hoffman are excited to get even better in the future. Most of the team is still eligible for 14U play again next season.

The season had quite a few successes for the 28-6 Blizzards. They were the regular season champs of the Arrowhead Fastpitch League, came in second in the Ashley Abrahamson tourney, and won the Northern MN State title before competing in the Northern Nationals. For the season, Sarah Christy led the Blizzards with a 17-4 record, 3.13 ERA, 165 K's/ 47 BB's in 103 innings pitched. Also doing well in the circle were Mendota Castonguay at 7-1, 6.19 ERA, 54 K's/24 BB's in 46 innings and Alexis Hoffman at 4-1, 6.26, 33/24 in 19 innings. On the offensive side Natalie Mikrot led the club in many categories hitting .582 with a .747 on-base-percentage and 1.493 OPS, scored 46 runs, stole 19 bases, and was hit by an amazing 11 pitches. As was seen at the National level, there is also not a better defensive catcher at the 14U level. Janna Bode led the team in hits with 42, and was second in runs with 34, RBI's with 22, batting average of .494, and steals with 15. Christy led the club with 36 RBI's and 10 extra base hits, garnering 40 hits in total with a .488 AVG and 1.230 OPS. Maci Kukuk hit .405 with 31 runs scored and Castonguay .407. Jojo Fossum hit .400, Edea Leino (who was unable to attend Nationals) .347, Alexis Hoffman .342, Lyndee Mlaskoch .327, and Hannah Roach (also unable to attend Nationals) .273. Amanda Zimmer had 17 RBI's. Grace Jordan and Kelly Crump did a good job getting on base and each scored 16 runs.


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