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March Mania

Kindred-Richland powers into Class B state softball title game

Kindred-Richland celebrates their defeat of Des Lacs-Burlington-Lewis & Clark with pitcher Abby McDonald, center, during their North Dakota Class B Softball Tournament semifinal game Friday, May 31, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 1 / 2
Central Cass players celebrate their win over Hillsboro-Central Valley during the North Dakota Class B state softball tournament semifinal game Friday, May 31, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 2 / 2

FARGO — Kindred-Richland made sure there is going to be a familiar North Dakota Class B state softball champion.

Coralie Schwartzwalter had three hits and drove in three runs to help spark the Vikings to an 8-4 victory against Des Lacs-Burlington-Lewis & Clark in the state semifinals Friday, May 31, at Tharaldson Park.

"It means a lot," Schwartzwalter said. "I think we really worked hard and there was some ups and downs (this season), but this means a lot to us."

Kindred-Richland (14-10) plays Central Cass at 4 p.m. Saturday in the state championship. The Vikings and Squirrels have combined to win the previous six state titles, each winning three. Central Cass is the defending state champion.

"It's always fun. It's always good games," Kindred-Richland coach Sam Brandt said. "It's always very, very competitive. Central Cass is a great team and they've been showing it all year."

The Vikings took control late in the game, scoring three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning. Trinity Holland started a two-out rally with an RBI single that gave Kindred-Richland a 6-4 lead. Senior third baseman Bren Koppang followed with a two-run triple that capped the scoring and gave the Vikings an 8-4 edge.

Vikings starting pitcher Abby McDonald pitched around a two-out walk for a scoreless bottom of the seventh to close out the victory. McDonald retired nine of the final 10 batters she faced.

McDonald struck out eight batters and earned the complete-game victory. She scattered six hits and allowed four runs, three of which were unearned.

Central Cass 4, Hillsboro-Central Valley 3

Central Cass senior Lexi Buhr thought the game was over. She was making her sixth and final trip to the North Dakota Class B state softball tournament and Friday's state semifinal was going to end on her fly ball with the winning run in scoring position.

The ball, however, hit off the glove of a Hillsboro-Central Valley outfielder, fell to the Tharaldson Park turf and two runs scored to give Central Cass a 4-3 walk-off victory. The win sends the Squirrels to Saturday's state championship game to try to make it back-to-back titles.

"It still feels kind of surreal," Buhr said. "It feels awesome to be able to go back to the state championship and defend our title."

Central Cass entered the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 3-2. Payton Richter opened the inning with a walk, but was forced out at second on a fielder's choice. Isabelle Linnard hit a grounder right back at the pitcher, who scooped it up and threw to second base, but the ball was dropped for an error. After MacKenzie McKinnon grounded out, runners were at second and third with two outs for Buhr.

She skied one to the outfield that the wind seemed to play with. It hit off the fielder's glove and was scored an error, the second error of the inning for the Burros.

Buhr stood on second base and put her hands on her helmet in shock, as Central Cass fully realized what happened.

"I was just hoping for a way to get it in play and get those runs in. I wasn't expecting her to drop it," Buhr said. "I saw her get under it and I saw it hit her glove. At first, I thought she caught it. I kept running because I saw it was on the ground and then I realized we just won the game."

H-CV (13-10) struck first, as Jillian Hurt opened the top of the third with a triple off the fence and scored on a passed ball. Central Cass (22-1) got runners on first and third with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, pushing a run across via a fielder's choice off the bat of Kaitlyn Houle.

H-CV got that run back in the top of the sixth thanks to Kaitlin Ensign's bomb over the fence in right field for a solo homer.

Rylie Holzer brought a run home on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the sixth to cut the H-CV lead to 3-2. H-CV pitcher Saige Forseth was able to get a strikeout with two outs and runners on second and third to hold the 3-2 lead and head to the seventh inning.

H-CV got a two-out single from Forseth with a runner on second in the top of the seventh, but left fielder Tori Richter hit shortstop Payton Richter, who fired home to Linnard, to nail the runner at the plate.