NEW ULM - The New Ulm Red's 18-and-under championship run in the Windmill Classic was perfectly dramatic.
The drama came off the bat of Brittany Hoffmann in the bottom of the seventh of the championship game, when she hit a towering 260-foot homer over the left field fence with two out and two on that gave Red a 6-3 win over the West Metro Thunder
Perfection came off the arm of hurler Hannah Becker in the earlier game that got Red into the championship bracket when she didn't allow a baserunner in an 11-0 victory over the Fargo Blaze.
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
New Ulm third baseman Kristi Larson throws across the diamond to put out a runner at first in the New Ulm 18U semifinal game against Fargo on Sunday.
This marks the second year in a row Red has won their hometown tournament and it was their defense early that kept the Thunder off the board. In the first inning, a West Metro player was caught in a rundown for the third out and in the second inning, Red catcher Kali Denn nailed a runner for the third out who was trying to steal second.
Some slick running by New Ulm in the bottom of the third gave them a 3-0 lead. With one out, MacKinnon Ehlenz singled up the middle, followed by a three foot triple by Ellie Schneider.
Actually, Schneider bunted the ball about three feet in front of the plate and the throw to first was late, allowing Ehlenz to eventually knock the ball out of the catcher's mitt on a play at home that made it 1-0 and left Schneider at third.
A single to left by Hoffmann scored Schneider, with Hoffmann dancing around a tag at home on Kristi Larson's double to left center. Pitcher Carlie Maasz was cruising until the Thunder tied to game in the top of the sixth after a couple of uncharacteristic Red errors helped them get three runs.
Maasz then came to her own rescue in the seventh when the Thunder got a runner to third with two outs. Maasz ended the inning with a strikeout on what she said was "an outside rise ball."
That set up the bottom of the seventh fireworks, as Abby Hauser coaxed a walk with one out and reached second an out later on a Schneider single to center. After corkscrewing herself on strike one, Hoffmann ended the win with a tattoo.
"I just wanted to get a base hit," Hoffmann said."But it felt good when I hit it."
Maasz was also grateful for her defense and battery mate Denn. "I always have confidence in our defense," Maasz said. "My changeup really set them up and I had a lot of help from Kali in those set-ups."
While Maasz did give up five hits, she didn't walk anyone, meaning she and Backer tossed a base on ball shutout for the day.
New Ulm gave Backer some early breathing room in her first ever perfect game against the Blaze by scoring nine in the bottom of the first. Red had just four hits while taking advantage of four walks, three of which forced home runs. In that inning, Schneider also had a two-run single, with Denn good for two runs batted in on a triple and Hoffmann good for a RBI single.
Hoffmann made it 11-0 with a two-run blast over the left field fence after Hauser doubled, while Backer kept Fargo off balance in the batter's box the whole game, with their only hard hit ball a long foul to left, with the rest of their outs grounders, popups and strikeouts.
"I'm pretty confident with my changeup," Backer said. "I'm not much of a strikeout pitcher, but I know the defense will back me up."