Pitchers’ duel

Hopp, New Ulm outlast Marshall in 3-0 shutout

Photo by Travis Rosenau/The Journal Marshall’s Morgan Bjella pops up a bunt during a road Big South Conference softball game with New Ulm on Thursday at New Ulm High School.

NEW ULM — Hits were hard to come by for both teams on Thursday, but the New Ulm Eagles made theirs count while their pitcher Ramsey Hopp took care of the rest.

Battling windy conditions and a commanding effort from Marshall Tigers pitcher Morgan Bjella, the Eagles pulled out a 3-0 shutout victory in a Big South Conference softball game at New Ulm High School.

Hopp allowed six hits and a walk while striking out nine in the win.

On the other end of the pitchers’ duel, Bjella allowed just three hits and two walks for two earned runs while fanning 11. She also sent down seven batters in a row with strikeouts, striking out the final batter of the third before striking out the sides in the fourth and fifth innings.

“She’s a good pitcher,” New Ulm head coach Kristi Andersen Loose said of Bjella. “She kept us on our toes. And I think, yeah, we struggled to get in a groove at the plate, but, thankfully, they were able to dig deep and play some small ball to eke out a couple runs.”

One of those runs came right away in the first inning as Maddie Backer hit a leadoff triple to left. Backer finished the day going 1 for 1 with that triple while adding two walks and two runs scored.

After a bunt led to an out at first and kept Backer at third, Hopp got a chance to bring Backer home and did just that with a bunt of her own. A throw home was late and high, allowing Backer to score and Hopp to take first.

Lauren Schmiesing hopped a double past Marshall third basemen Halla Casavan in the second, but Bjella sent down the next two batters via strikeout to end the inning. 

The Eagles got their last hit of the game in the sixth inning after Backer took her second walk of the day to lead off the inning. 

After Backer stole second, a sacrifice bunt attempt by Kenzie Enter was fielded by Bjella and thrown away from first and down the line. That allowed Backer to score and Enter to reach third. Hopp then got a sac bunt down that scored Enter for a 3-0 lead. 

Gracie Linbo got a bunt down also and reached safely, but the Tigers doubled her off to end the inning after forcing a pop out and throwing it back to first.

Marshall had its best shot to score in the seventh with three hits. 

A leadoff single to left by Casavan started the inning before Hopp forced a pop out. Singles to right by Harley Beek and Jaina Dekker loaded the bases, prompting a visit to the circle by Andersen Loose.

After that, Hopp dialed in and struck out the next two batters she saw to leave the bases full and give New Ulm the win.

“That’s my first time out [to the circle] I’ve had all year,” Andersen Loose said. “I came out there and I actually said, ‘I just came out sightseeing to check out the Grand Canyon,’ because there’s a pitcher’s drag circle. Then I said, ‘I really have nothing to say.’ I told my defenders where I wanted them to play and they were going to play back and what they were going to do and just to make sure they knew what they were going to do in a bases-loaded situation and each play. … Pretty simple.

“I have no concerns. Ramsey has amazing poise and amazing control on the mound. I don’t feel like I have to go out and calm her down, settle her down or do anything. She takes care of that herself. Se’s one of the most mentally strong kids that I’ve coached.”

Beek led the Marshall bats with a 2-for-3 day at the plate. Bjella and Naya Grahn also each had an infield single for Marshall.

The Eagles, who have already defeated both Mankato East and Mankato West this season, moved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference with the win Thursday.

Andersen Loose said regardless of the early win streak, she’s happy to see her players focused on continuous improvement as they play for the end of the season.

“They were frustrated today,” Andersen Loose said. “Rightly so. They didn’t play the way that they wanted to play, and that’s good. We’re only five games in, so we should be in growth mode yet and we should find things that we struggle with and it’s not always going to be easy. 

“The cool thing is that we haven’t had to rely on our small ball a significant amount for our first four wins and this one we did and it was nice to see a different perspective on how we can win a ball game.”

The Tigers dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference in defeat and travel to Worthington for a 5:30 p.m. game Tuesday.

New Ulm is at Caswell Park for a tournament in North Mankato on Saturday.


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