Rebels run the section, return to State
ML/WR sweep the field for another shot in Mankato
June 9, 2023
As the defending Section 7A champions, the Moose Lake/Willow River girls softball team had a target on its back the entire season.
The Rebels handled the pressure of the compacted season and last week did the same by going undefeated in the sectional tournament to make the state tournament for the second time in a row.
"We told the girls we needed to be ready for that, because every team we played was going to give us their best game," said ML/WR coach Kelly Goeb. "We were ready for that. We told the girls they had to work harder if they wanted to get back to state, and that's exactly what they did."
The road to the championship saw the Rebels get back-to-back 10-0 shutout wins over North Woods and South Ridge. Those two wins were followed by a 4-1 win over Carlton/Wrenshall in the undefeated bracket and then a championship game 5-0 win over Silver Bay last Thursday, June 1.
"I was impressed with Silver Bay and their team," Goeb said. "To be honest, I expected us to see either Cherry or Carlton/Wrenshall in the championship. Silver Bay showed a lot of fight and it is good to see that program on the rise."
The Rebels wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard. After holding the Mariners scoreless in the first, Hallie Klavu led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on a one-out double by Sandra Ribich, making it 1-0. That would be the only run that Rebels pitcher Alexis Hoffman would need, as the senior hurler allowed just three hits while striking out seven.
"Alexis pitched a real good game for us," said Goeb. "She's picked up some speed, and came in and did what we expect from her."
ML/WR stretched the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the second when Megan Hattenberger led off with a single and then stole second. She eventually scored on an error by the first baseman.
Things got even worse for the Mariners in the bottom of the sixth when the Rebels tacked on three more runs by Ribich, Makenzie Hoffman and Hattenberger.
"I don't know if most coaches know how deep our lineup is," Goeb said. "It's always the person we least expect in that game who comes through. We have two strong pitchers with Alexis and Sarah (Christy) and our batting lineup is deep."
That combination, along with a solid defense, makes the Rebels a formidable opponent as they head to the Class A state tournament this weekend in Mankato. ML/WR opened as the No. 3 seed and played New Ulm Cathedral at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, after this issue of the Pine Knot went to press.
"It is always exciting to win the sections," Goeb said. "Last year we had to fight through the losers bracket, but this year we stayed in the winners bracket, and it was still exciting when we got that final out and knew we were going back to the state tournament."
Moose Lake/Willow River's state tournament games will be broadcast on radio on WMOZ-FM 106.9 FM. Games can also be heard via the internet on http://www.northwoodsradio.com for free.