St. Charles Softball survives on walk-off win against Watertown-Mayer in Class AA quarterfinal, 5-4

Saints’ Grace Buringa made the game-winning base hit in the bottom of the 7th.

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(ABC 6 News) — On Thursday’s opening quarterfinal of the Class AA Softball State Tournament, the St. Charles Saints found themselves in unfamiliar territory… Trailing.

Unseeded Watertown-Mayer gave St. Charles a fight in North Mankato’s Caswell Park. The Royals scored their first run on an error, but their next run was a moonshot from Abby Otterness off former ABC 6 Prep of the Week Brenna Koeppel. The solo homer put the Royals up 2-0 against Class AA’s second-seed.

Trailing by multiple runs for the first time since May 15th, Head Coach Adam Gust’s crew battled back in the bottom of the 4th inning. Saints senior Maddison Williamson scored fellow fourth-year Lauryn Delger off a sac fly; a wild pitch with Koeppel at bat allowed Mya Ohmdahl to race home and tie it at 2-2.

The score was a brief stalemate as Koeppel was taken yard once more in the top of the 6th by W-M’s Ella Guetzkow. The home run also marked the first time all season Koeppel has given up multiple homers in a single game.

In the bottom of the 6th, Lauryn Delger was key again, hitting a sac fly at the warning track to ensure Makadyn Gust would tie the game again at 3-3.

The St. Charles faithful present soon had their joy replaced by dread; the Royals’ Isabelle Neaton would pelt a 7th-inning RBI double to send home a runner at third, marking the first time the Saints have trailed on three separate occasions.

With St. Charles down to its final out in the bottom of the 7th, the Saints had a lucky break (or perhaps divine intervention given their name?). W-M’s Neaton scooped a bouncer from Emma Chuchna but immediately stumbled and tripped right as she was about to throw to first. The error gave Koeppel the window needed to score from second base and tie up the game for a third time.

Chuchna eventually advanced to second, bringing up senior Grace Buringa at bat to win the game. The latter took aim and fired a base hit to right; Chuchna would blaze around the bases and come home to help St. Charles escape the upset bid by Watertown-Mayer, 5-4.

“[Adam] Gust has been telling every single day since the season started, ever since he started coaching, ‘Always take advantage, always be aggressive,'” Buringa said after the win. “And that’s exactly what we did. We’re always there to pounce whenever they make a mistake and we really capitalized on it.”

“We’ve tried to put them in situations like this,” Gust spoke. “‘Hey, we’re going to see good pitching. We’re going to see good teams, they’re going to challenge you.’ And down to the final out, we’ve won two games down to the final out. The experience of these girls, they’ve been through it. So they don’t have the give-up attitude and they know they can win any game at any point.”

The Saints defeated unseeded St. Agnes in the Class AA semifinal later in the day and will play for a State Championship at 4 PM on Friday against #5 DGF in North Mankato.