Irish are one victory from state tournament

Cece Hanson scores one of Rosemount's 13 runs in a Class 4A, Section 3 softball playoff victory over Park of Cottage Grove last week. The Irish will play for the section championship Friday afternoon at Richfield Middle School.

Softball team powers its way to section final

After a 17-1 regular season, Rosemount has had no trouble with keeping its foot on the accelerator.

Three victories in the Class 4A, Section 3 playoffs have the Irish on the brink of their first state softball tournament since the school’s 2006 state championship. They will try to take that step at 3 p.m. Friday when they play East Ridge or Park of Cottage Grove in the section final at Richfield Middle School. As the last undefeated team remaining in the double-elimination tournament, Rosemount will have two opportunities to win the one game it needs to go to state.

The Irish, now 20-1, and ranked fourth in Class 4A, have succeeded by excelling at all phases of the game, but if there’s one that stood out in the playoffs so far, it’s the offense. A deep, dangerous lineup gives them the opportunity for a big inning at any time. Rosemount has scored 30 runs in three section games, including its 7-4 victory over East Ridge in Monday’s winners’ bracket final.

“When the whole lineup is hitting, getting walks and putting down bunts, it works out better on the scoreboard,” coach Tiffany Rose said following the Irish’s 13-1 victory over Park of Cottage Grove in the second round of the section playoffs June 3. “Five different girls have hit home runs, so we have a lot of power, but those same girls can get base hits. It’s a good mix. We have a couple of quick girls who can put (bunts) down, too.”

Senior shortstop Izzy Yahr is not one of the Rosemount players with a home run this season. But she had plenty to do with the Irish’s outburst against Park with two three-run triples, coming in the second and third innings. She also scored one run and drove in one in Monday’s victory over East Ridge.

The Irish roster is loaded with promising ninth- and 10th-graders. As one of the holdovers from the last Minnesota high school softball season in 2019, Yahr has tried to help them deal with the stress of section play.

Mainly, it’s about “keeping the energy on the bench, letting them know it’s more serious than conference games,” she said. “Play your part on the team and with everyone doing that we’ll put a lot of runs on the board.”

The Irish led 2019 section champion East Ridge 7-1 after six innings before the Raptors pulled closer with three runs in the seventh. Two of those runs scored on an error and another scored on a passed ball.

Rosemount sophomore pitcher Jessa Snippes struck out 12. At the plate she went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in. Cece Hanson also drove in two, and leadoff hitter Macy Fry was 2-for-3 and scored three times.

East Ridge played Park of Cottage Grove in an elimination game Wednesday, with the winner advancing to play Rosemount in Friday’s final. The section champion plays in the state Class 4A tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato on June 15-16.

Rose said the coaches have been preaching a disciplined approach to hitting, and it appears to have taken hold with the Irish. “You’re going to see pitchers who can blow it by you, so we’ve tried really hard to remind the girls to swing at good pitches,” Rose said. “We talk a lot about hitting our pitch and not their pitch.”

Yahr is one of only four seniors on the varsity roster, the others being Sophie Sprang, Avery Leppones and Abby Haisting. Although the 2021 team would be relatively young, the coaches and players felt good about the Irish’s chances.

“We’ve been watching this group of ninth- and 10th-graders since they were in seventh and eighth grade,” Rose said. “They’ve always been a little bit bigger and they’re very dedicated to softball. We’ve been excited for them to get to the varsity level, and we have some very good returning girls who stepped up even after missing a year.”

Club programs were available last summer and most of the Rosemount girls were able to do their normal training over the winter, so when they arrived for the start of high school practice there was little rust, Rose said.

Yahr said “my sister (Emmy, a sophomore outfielder) plays with a bunch of the 10th-graders and I knew they had good seasons coming up through the traveling program.”

Izzy Yahr was asked if she was surprised by anything the Irish have accomplished so far. “No. Not at all,” she said. “We knew we were going to be pretty good. I’m just super-proud of the team and everybody on it.”

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