Early deficit too large for Sioux to overcome

The Westhope-Newburg-Bottineau softball team experienced a heavy dose of dj’ vu Friday afternoon.

For the second straight day, the Sioux trailed by six runs after the top of the first inning. But this time, the hole was too great to dig out of.

East Region No. 2 seed Kindred-Richland stymied every W-N-B comeback attempt and advanced to its first Class B state tournament championship game with a 17-3, five-inning win at South Hill Complex.

The Vikings (18-4) will face rival Central Cass at 3:30 p.m. today for a state title. The West Region No. 1-seeded Sioux (13-8) play Enderlin-Maple Valley for third place at 11 a.m.

“We got down 6-0 again and when we got two back in the first I thought we maybe were going to be able to come back, but they just kept hitting the ball,” W-N-B coach Layne Fluhrer said. “There’s not a whole lot we could do. We made some errors, but they earned it. They spanked the ball around the yard all day long.”

Kindred-Richland senior shortstop Molly Pfeifer, the No. 2 hitter, kicked off the first frame with a single, then stole second base and reached third on a throwing error before scoring on Madison Johnson’s single. In the opening frame, the Vikings tallied seven baserunners, four stolen bases and two more free bases on wild pitches.

“The top of the order got on base right away,” Kindred-Richland coach Mike Oehlke said. “We were able to steal some bases and move guys around. That gets us going. Then the hitting’s contagious.”

W-N-B plated two in the first and another in the second when Oehlke pulled sophomore pitcher Savannah Christensen for junior ace Greta Klinnert, who picked up a win against Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Oehlke said he was well aware that the Sioux turned a 6-0 deficit into an 18-8, six-inning rout Thursday against Grafton.

“That’s why I switched my pitchers so quick,” Oehlke said. “I told them, ‘Hey, these guys are going to come back.’

“Usually we get a lead and we let up and don’t stay on the gas pedal. It was good to see today that we actually came through on that.”

Klinnert entered with two runners on and two outs. She induced a flyout from W-N-B junior pitcher Sam Colman to end the inning. The right-hander tossed 3 1/3 innings of no-hit ball, striking out five and allowing one walk.

“We saw this pitcher yesterday and we knew she was very good,” Fluhrer said. “She took control of the game from there and we weren’t able to get to her.”

Pfeifer sparked a six-run fourth inning and a four-run fifth, which put the game well out of reach. She went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two stolen bases, four runs scored and an RBI.

“She puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Oehlke said. “If they play back, she bunts. So then they have to play in and she hits it by them. She’s got power, too.”

Added Pfeifer, smiling: “I think it was what I ate. I had Frosted Flakes, it’s my favorite cereal. That’s my breakfast of champions.”

Kindred sophomore Bailey Jo Dougherty finished the day 3-for-4 with three runs and junior Shelby Grabanski was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs.

Colman suffered the loss, allowing 17 hits, walking two and striking out four. Juniors Jacie Ceglowski, Lauren Mach and Colman recorded hits for W-N-B, which is now 1-1 all-time in the state tournament.

Fluhrer said he tried to keep the loss in perspective during his postgame chat with his team.

Said Fluhrer: “What I told the girls was, ‘We were 0-10 our first year, two years ago. We were 6-12 last year. Our goal was to win a state championship, but look where you’re at right now. You just played in a state semifinal game and that’s something to be very proud of.’ “

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.