By PATRICK SLACK
Little Falls used a combination of powerful offense, excellent relief pitching and repeated resilience to emerge on top 12-9 in a back-and-forth battle with Paynesville Area, Tuesday, earning a trip to the Sub-Section 6AA East final.
After the visiting Bulldogs led off the game with a home run, Little Falls snared the lead on a three-run long ball by junior Jamie Jenks in the bottom of the first.
The Flyers added a run in the second, but Paynesville brought its first five batters in the third around to score and take a 6-4 lead.
Senior Chloe Nelson entered in relief to slow down the Paynesville attack, but an unearned run in the fourth pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 7-4.
The Flyers wouldn’t relent, though, striking for five runs in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead at 9-7.
Paynesville tied the score back up with runs in the next two frames, setting the stage for the bottom of the sixth.
Senior Britian Conley drew a walk to lead off the inning, followed by a single by Jenks.
Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, then came around to score on a tie-breaking two-run double by senior Alayna Kabanuk.
Senior Makayla Jorgensen drove in Kabanuk with a base hit to provide a valuable insurance run, as the Bulldogs brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, only for Nelson to slam the door to secure the victory.
“We were able to win the game because we kept battling and our hitters kept pounding the ball,” Little Falls head coach Ron Hinnenkamp said. “That is the biggest characteristic of this team: their will to keep battling.”
Jenks finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs and Kabanuk contributed two RBIs and two runs.
Senior Holly Kampa, junior Chelsey Karnowski, Conley and Jorgensen all added two hits and drove in a run, with Conley scoring three times and Karnowski crossing the plate twice.
Nelson allowed only one earned run in five innings of relief to record the win, striking out six.
Third-seeded Little Falls advances to the double elimination portion of the playoffs and will take on top-seeded and sixth-ranked Albany in Thursday’s Sub-Section 6AA East championship game at Whitney Park in St. Cloud. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Paynesville 9 12 0
Little Falls 12 15 6
Little Falls—Jamie Jenks: 3-4, HR, 5-RBI, 3-R; Alayna Kabanuk: 2-4, 2-2B, 2-RBI, 2-R; Britian Conley: 2-3, RBI, 3-R, BB; Chelsey Karnowski: 2-4, RBI, 2-R; Makayla Jorgensen: 2-4, RBI, R; Holly Kampa: 2-4, RBI; WP-Chloe Nelson: 5-IP, 3-R, 1-ER, 5-H, 1-BB, 6-K.