Caitlin Hinz has a bright future in the Magic softball program.
Just a freshman, her dominance was on full display Monday, when the Monti pitcher threw a complete-game shutout against Sauk Rapids-Rice, while striking out 13 batters.
Hinz’s performance helped earn Monti a key 3-0 win against the Storm, ending a five-game losing streak.
She was coming off her toughest outing of the year the prior week, where she struggled with her control and allowed 14 runs in a loss to North Branch. But on Monday, Coach Mary Libbesmeier said Hinz’s command was spot-on.
The pitcher walked six batters in the game, but Libbesmeier said almost all of them came on full counts and after long battles. The 13 strikeouts were a career-high for Hinz, topping the 11 she posted against STMA in the season-opener. And the freshman pitcher carried a no-hitter all the way into the sixth inning, before Sauk Rapids picked up their lone base knock of the contest.
“She was spot on,” said Libbesmeier. “She showed command and control of the game.”
Only nine Sauk Rapids batters put the ball into fair territory during the game, and Libbesmeier said very few were struck well.
“When she was in the zone, no one was touching her,” she said.
Behind Hinz, Libbesmeier was pleased with the defensive effort. Monti has allowed a number of unearned runs this season, but Libbesmeier said that on Monday everyone did a good job of staying alert, staying on the move, and talking, all things that have been focal points for the Magic as of late.
Offensively, Monti cashed in during three different innings, which was more than enough for Hinz.
Faith Kopff was the biggest difference maker. The junior led off the second-inning by smashing a ball over the right field fence for her first varsity home run and a lead the Magic wouldn’t relinquish.
Libbesmeier said it provided exactly the kind of start that Monti needed.
“It boosted morale right off the bat,” she said. “It really kind of set the tone.”
Monti would add another run in the fourth and in the sixth innings. In the fourth, Kylee Beilke reach on an error to get things started. Beilke then moved to second on a passed ball, before advancing to third on an Emma Blackstone base hit. Monti’s senior star came through next, as Jamie Axelberg singled in Beilke to double the Magic lead.
In the sixth, it was Blackstone who provided the spark. The freshman reached on a walk to start the inning, then moved to second base on an Axelberg base hit. Next, Amanda Scherber laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Then with Blackstone on third base, a pitch got away from the catcher for just long enough to allow Blackstone to dart home and provide the final margin of victory.
Axelberg led Monti in the game with three hits in four at bats, including a double. Scherber and Blackstone both went one for two, while Kopff had a big-time game, going two for three with a double and a home run.
It was the second big game in a week for Axelberg, who went two for four against North Branch last Tuesday. Libbesmeier said getting her going could be the start of something big for the team.
“Once she starts stepping up, a lot of people tend to follow,” said Libbesmeier.
Prior to the Sauk Rapids win, Monti had dropped consecutive games to North Branch and St. Francis by scores of 14-2 and 18-2. Libbesmeier said that caused Monti to take a step back and look at every area of their game to see where they could make improvements.
Seeing some of the quick changes come to fruition on Monday should be a good boost for the relatively young and inexperienced Magic squad.
“It showed the possibility of the success we can achieve,” said Libbesmeier. “It showed we can compete at this level.”
Monti has a run of home games coming up in the next few days, starting with today’s home game against Chisago Lakes, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Following that, the Magic will host an invite on Saturday, at Monticello High School. The four team invitational, featuring Rocori, Sartell, and St. Cloud Cathedral, is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]