In a season that both Princeton and Milaca softball have struggled to find consistency on the field, the two squared off on the diamond on May 25 at Mark Park with both looking to snap losing streaks.
Entering into the contest on a 17-game losing streak, the Tigers were the ones to walk away victorious with a 7-0 shutout win over the Wolves on what doubled as senior night in Princeton.
One of the few seniors on the young Princeton roster, Rylie Turnquist was happy to see the team come together and snap the losing skid. “It was fun to finally get a win, especially here on senior night and to play as a team,” she said as her and Kailey Sullivan are the only two seniors on the roster.
Coming into the game, a good pitching performance would be needed from the Tigers to compete with the Wolves solid hitting team.
Eighth grader Lucy Knutson was able to provide just that as Knutson was dominate on the night, starting with three strikeouts in the first inning while mixing in a walk.
Getting out of the first inning unscathed allowed Princeton the opportunity to jump ahead in the bottom of the first. After an RBI ground out by Tigers’ Morgan Kloss off of Milaca’s Madison VanDonsel, Princeton was able to do just that, leading 1-0 after one inning of play.
The top of the second saw more strong pitching by Knutson, as she picked up three more strikeouts while once again stranding a runner on via a walk to send the Tigers up to the plate for the bottom of the second.
Heading to the bottom of the second, Princeton was able to take advantage of some wildness by VanDonsel, as three walks by the Milaca pitcher resulted in two more runs for the Tigers.
Into the third inning, Knutson once again picked up all of her outs in the circle via punchout as the eighth grader struck out the side, giving her nine strikeouts in three innings
After adding another run in the bottom of the third, Knutson was brought back into the circle having yet to allow a hit on the afternoon. Morgan Majerus would snap that streak as a single by the Milaca player ended the bid for the no-no.
Knutson wouldn’t let the loss of the no-hitter derail her strong performance as she would pick up another two more strikeouts to bring her total to 11 through four innings.
Princeton’s offense would continue to do its job, getting to VanDonsel for a couple more runs in the four, ending the senior’s night. VanDonsel ended her line with seven walks in four innings to go along with two strikeouts of her own.
With the Tigers continuing to distance themselves from the Wolves, Knutson would strikeout three more in the fifth, while finishing her day grabbing one more strikeout in the sixth to bring her day to an end.
Knutson, when all said and done picked up 15 strikeouts in her six innings of work, giving up just one hit and walking two.
On to finish the game was Kloss, who pitched another scoreless inning while picking up where Knutson left off with three strikeouts of her own to snap the Tigers’ 17-game losing streak.
Watching the team pick up their first win since April, Princeton Head Coach Katie Uittenbogaard believes the win shows the progress they have made. “I think that it shows our upward streak that we are starting to get on,” she said.
Princeton moved to 2-17 while Milaca dropped to 1-18 on the season.
The game was the last of the regular season for the Wolves while Princeton took on Chisago Lakes two days later.
Princeton hangs tough against Wildcats
Fresh off of the win over the Wolves, the Tigers took some of that momentum and battled hard against the Wildcats, falling by a 4-1 score on May 28.
The loss wrapped up a 2-18 regular season for Princeton while giving Chisago Lakes a 16-3-1 record.
Postseason for Princeton
As the Section 7AAA playoffs began on June 2 for Princeton, the Tigers prepared to travel right back to Chisago Lakes to take on the Wildcats again.
With the match up against the tough Chisago Lakes team, Uittenbogaard believes the team can continue to play better ball if they keep playing improved defense. “If we can play fundamentally sound on defense, we will be just fine going into sections,” she said.
Postseason for Milaca
The Wolves began their Section 6AA Tournament on June 1, as they traveled to Pierz to take on Staples-Motley.
If Milaca is able to win, it will set up the opportunity to take on the Pioneers later that day.