Competing in what could be the toughest bracket in the state, the Waconia softball team managed a win before their season ultimately came to an end. In the Section 2AAA Tournament that features the top two teams in Class AAA, the Wildcats defeated conference rival Hutchinson May 23 to earn a third playoff game.

Having split the season series with the Tigers with a 7-6 win and 5-2 loss, the game was destined to be close yet again. Fortunately for the Wildcats, their offense was explosive during the middle innings, giving pitcher Kaylee Barrieau enough room to send the ‘Cats on to the next round.

After the Wildcats struggled in the third inning with a series of errors that gifted the Tigers a 2-0 lead, the Waconia bats woke up in the fourth and fifth inning to send six runs across the plate. Claire Segner tripled in the lead-off spot before Holly Weinberger scored her on a deep fly ball. Heather Grengs walked to keep the offense going, but another out seemed to end the rally before it got started. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, a Hutchinson error kept the inning alive and put Kiersten Hamby on base, before Lilli Plagge and Audrey Swanson made the Tigers pay with back-to-back RBI singles to put Waconia up 4-2.

Waconia padded the lead when Segner and Grengs both liked the first pitches they saw in the fifth inning, hitting homers on the first ball thrown across the plate.

While the Tigers managed two late runs, Barrieau’s effort on the mound was enough to send Hutchinson packing. The sophomore earned the complete-game win by scattering five hits across seven innings, striking out eight while picking up only two earned runs.

Segner and Swanson led the offense with two hits each, while Weinberger, Grengs, Plagge and Libby Kuntz each had one. Swanson had a pair of RBIs in the win; Segner, Weinberger, Grengs and Plagge each had one.

Waconia 3

Mankato East 9

The season came to an end for the Wildcats May 25, when they faced one of the four ranked teams between them and a return trip to the state tournament. Half of the eight teams in Section 2AAA is ranked in the top 10 – No. 1 Mankato West, No. 2 Faribault, No. 8 New Ulm and No. 9 Mankato East. Waconia ended last season ranked and started this season in the top 10, so it would not be a stretch to say Section 2AAA is the toughest bracket in the state.

On Saturday, the No. 6 seeded Wildcats drew the No. 4 seed Mankato East in an elimination game. Waconia got off to an explosive start when Taylor Braun belted the ball over the fence in the second at-bat of the game, hitting her first homer of the season and Waconia’s 11th. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, the Cougars chipped away with a steady stream of runs to pull off the win.

The two other runs from the ‘Cats came in the fourth and sixth innings. Segner walked in the lead-off spot in the fourth, then scored on a sacrifice fly from Grengs. In the sixth, Braun singled and scored on a single from Weinberger.

Braun led the offense with a pair of hits and an RBI. Weinberger, Plagge and Norah Schmitz each had one hit, while Weinberger and Grengs each had an RBI.

Lindsey Braun had a strong performance on the mound in 1 2/3 innings in relief, allowing only one hit and no earned runs.

Waconia 1 New Ulm 10

A close game got away from the Wildcats late in the first round of the playoffs May 23, when a 1-0 lead midway through the fourth was turned into a 10-1 deficit.

Facing the No. 3 seeded Eagles, Barrieau looked strong on the mound, shutting the No. 8 ranked team for the first three innings. And while New Ulm ultimately won 10-1, Barrieau had a good showing, scattering seven hits across five innings while picking up only three earned runs.

All that stood between the New Ulm pitcher and a perfect game were a pair of at-bats from Kiersten Hamby and Weinberger, who had the only two hits for Waconia. Taylor Braun scored the lone run.

Waconia 2

New Prague 18

After a stellar week that saw Waconia win three games, two via walk-off, the regular season finale was less exciting when the ‘Cats lost 18-2 to the Trojans May 20.

Taylor Braun led the offense with two hits, while Weinberger, Grengs, Nicole Weinberger and Lizzy Leuthner each had one. Weinberger had the lone RBI.

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