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Rebels defeat Raptors

Moose Lake/Willow River returns to section final

When the Section 7A softball tournament opened play Tuesday at the Grand Rapids Sports Complex, there were only two unbeaten teams remaining: the Rebels and the Raptors. One, Moose Lake/Willow River, was the defending section champion and No. 1 seed. The Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors were seeded in the No. 3 spot.

The two met at center stage and the game ended with the Rebels heading back to the championship game at 4 p.m. Thursday in Cloquet, and the Raptors heading into an elimination game to try to fight their way back.

Here's how things unfolded Tuesday.

The Rebels had little trouble reaching the semifinals undefeated. After an opening round bye, ML/WR then picked up wins last week over North Woods, 10-0, and an equally impressive 10-0 victory over South Ridge. In the win over North Woods, Alexis Hoffman picked up the pitching win by allowing only one hit. In the shutout victory over South Ridge, it was Sarah Christy grabbing the win on the mound by tossing a two-hitter.

Carlton/Wrenshall was equally impressive. The Raptors opened the tournament last week by downing Littlefork-Big Falls, 12-0, then taking a 1-0 victory over Barnum and finally a 3-0 win over Cherry. Pitcher Abby Mitchell threw back-to-back no-hitters in the wins over Barnum and Cherry.

In their semifinal match up Tuesday, the Rebels pitched Sarah Christy while the Raptors continued to go with Mitchell toeing the rubber. The game was a pitchers' duel through the bottom of the fourth, when the Rebels scored three runs to take a 3-0 lead. Lily Kahara smacked a two-run triple.

"That was a big hit from Lily," said Rebels coach Kelly Goeb.

ML/WR tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth after Alexis Hoffman doubled with one out and then was pinch run for by Elsie Leino, who scored on a wild pitch.

Carlton/Wrenshall made things interesting in the top of the seventh when they strung together three hits and plated one run, but it was just a little too late, as Christy was able to get outs and hang on for the 4-1 win.

"The girls just kept battling and we were able to score the run, but we just ended up short," said Raptors coach Brent Pokornowski. "We finally started driving the outside pitch in that inning."

Christy had 11 strikeouts and gave up three hits and no walks. Mitchell gave up five hits, struck out nine and walked two.

"Sarah (Christy) had a very solid game for us," Goeb said. "She had a perfect game going into the seventh inning, so we couldn't ask for much more from her."

The victory improved the Rebels record to 20-3. The Rebels are in the driver's seat as the lone undefeated team in the tournament.

"You can never take anything for granted," said Goeb. "Our girls are hungry to get back to State and this is the first year where we are sitting as the undefeated team going into Thursday."

By virtue of the loss, the Raptors dropped to the losers bracket and had to take on Silver Bay on Thursday. The Mariners had come off back-to-back wins over South Ridge and Cherry, and got two runs in the first inning against the Raptors and maintained that lead throughout the whole game. The Mariners came away with the 2-0 victory and a spot in the finals against ML/WR at 4 p.m. Thursday in Cloquet.

Mitchell did her best to keep her team in the game by shutting down the Mariners after the first inning. She struck out 15 in the season-ending loss.

"Abby pitched well all day long," Pokornowski said. "It is hard to be perfect all the time and I know she is disappointed, but she did everything she possibly could to keep us in it."

The Raptors season concluded with a final record of 15-7.

"This was a great group of girls," Pokornowski said. "They have passion for the game and they had fun. I couldn't be happier with this team. Coach Anna (George) and I appreciated everything they did this season. It was a good season despite the way today ended."

Other 7A action

Earlier in 7A tournament play, Barnum, the No. 6 seed, downed Chisholm 10-0 on May 23 while South Ridge won a pair of games over Cook County and Silver Bay last week before falling to ML/WR on May 25. Cromwell-Wright, the No. 9 seed, lost in the opening round to North Woods 3-1 and did not advance to the double-elimination round of the tournament.

Also on Tuesday, both South Ridge and Barnum played elimination games in Grand Rapids. South Ridge played Silver Bay. The Panthers jumped ahead of the Mariners early and held a 4-1 lead, but the Mariners rallied back and ousted South Ridge by an 8-7 score.

Barnum faced Cherry in an equally close game. The Bombers got a superbly pitched game from Alizondra Collelo, who allowed just four hits. However, Cherry pitcher Hailey Greenly was equally impressive, allowing just one hit and striking out 16 in her team's 1-0 victory over the Bombers. The No. 2 seeded Tigers moved on to play Silver Bay, ultimately losing 4-2.

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