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Focus shifts to future

Young Storm softball revels in reaching section final


The tears were not unexpected. Such is the norm after losing in a section championship game.
But for the Sauk Rapids-Rice softball team, it seemed the tears were more about the pride involved with taking a huge step in turning around the program along with the fact that a season pretty much everyone described as “fun” was over.

The task for the Storm was large in the Section 8AAA championship June 1 at Tech High School in St. Cloud. They would have had to defeat top-seeded Rocori twice to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1984.

A more-experienced Spartans team, however, would not let it happen, using strong pitching while stringing together enough hits to get the job done in a 6-0 victory.

It was the fourth win of the season for Rocori over SRR, including twice in the playoffs. The Storm ended the season 10-14 overall – one season removed from a two-win campaign.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Emily McEwan, Storm second-year head coach. “The progress we made was leaps and bounds. This is a new group that came together, and we got to a section championship. We had great kids last year, but we didn’t have that understanding we could beat anyone who was on the field with us. We eventually had that belief this season.”

The program’s improvement was not lost on senior Kendal Craft. The right-fielder has always loved the sport but said being a part of this season’s progress was special.

“I just love my team so much, and I’m so happy I got to play with them” Craft said. “Even though it’s over, I’m so happy it happened. We grew so much. We took so many new people in and finding room for all these girls and learning to grow together was incredible to watch. I was happy to be part of it. This was my favorite season by far.”

It took a while for the Spartans to assume control. They scored once in the third after leaving the bases loaded in each of the first two innings. Rocori strung together three RBI singles in the fourth to establish some breathing room and added two more in the bottom of the sixth to put it away, clinching the program’s ninth state tournament appearance.

“This is just one step for us,” said Campbell Arndt, junior shortstop and pitcher. “This is so crazy.
Our team connected so well, and no one was ever against each other.

We always wanted the best for each other. I’m really going to miss this team. I love every one of them.”

Riley Turck and Taylor Lamoureux each singled in the top of the sixth to start a bit of a threat, but Morgan Dorn’s smash to the Rocori shortstop was caught and led to an inning-ending double play. Addi Breth and Bailey Seaman each had hits for the Storm.

The playoffs started as seventh-grade pitcher Ava Knutson threw a no-hitter in a 3-2 win over Little Falls May 26 at the Sauk Rapids-Rice high school fields in Sauk Rapids. Seaman drove in the winning run in the eighth inning.

The second-seeded Storm had a chance to take down Rocori May 30, but the Spartans rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-3 win May 30 at Rocori High School in Cold Spring.

SRR advanced to the championship game with a 3-2 win over Little Falls immediately after the Rocori loss May 30, getting RBIs from Arndt, Lamoureaux and Craft. Arndt pitched 6-plus innings of relief for the win.

“This is my goal every year,” McEwan said. “To see it become reality, it was kind of a dream. But it’s kind of heartbreaking, too. We wanted to be wearing blue instead of red ribbons around our necks, but it’s been a great season.”