An already long week for the Superior High School softball team grew even longer Wednesday as the Spartans played 13 innings in a 6-5 victory over Hermantown.
Superior was playing its third game in three days, having defeated Cloquet 10-0 Monday and Duluth Denfeld 6-0 Tuesday.
The Spartans played their fourth straight game Thursday at Ashland (Superior won 21-1 in five innings), and they host Bloomer at 5 p.m. today (Friday). Superior closes out its seven-game week — and the regular season — with a doubleheader at Menomonie Saturday.
Mike Sather, head coach of the Spartans, said his players are coping well with the frenzied schedule . . . although they could have done without Wednesday’s 13-inning marathon against the Hermantown Hawks.
“It was a heck of a game, but the big thing was we came back three different times when we could have thrown in the towel,” Sather said.
Superior trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning but came back to tie the game at 3-3 after six innings. Hermantown then took one-run leads in the top of the eighth and tenth innings, but Superior answered both times with single runs in their half of the frame.
Erika Olson finally ended the game for Superior in the 13th inning when she led off with a single, advanced to third on a Hermantown throwing error and came home on Natalie Olson’s sacrifice fly to center field.
With the win, Superior clinched the Lake Superior Conference softball title and improved to 16-4 overall. Both Hermantown and Superior entered Wednesday’s game undefeated in conference play.
“Hermantown, obviously they’re well coached, and that’s why it went 13 innings,” Sather said. “Hermantown is a really, really strong team, and if we played them again tomorrow they’d probably be the ones who won the game.”
During Wednesday’s 13-inning grind, Sather worked to keep his team’s spirits up after Hermantown took an early lead.
The Hawks led 1-0 after the second inning when Taylor Vold led off with a walk and eventually scored on Megan Gries’ single. Hermantown then stretched its lead to 3-0 in the third inning on three hits and a throwing error.
“We started a little chant. We started getting on each other about who believes — who here believes that we can come back,” Sather said. “Then when we did come back you could hear them say, ‘Now we believe, now we believe.’
“Once we tied it up they all believed. At first I think it was only half of them.”
Superior got one run back in the bottom of the third inning. Allie Thul was hit by a pitch to get on base with one out, and Hannah Thul followed with a walk. Two batters later, Madysen Stariha drove in A. Thul with a single to center field.
The Spartans picked up two more runs in the sixth inning.
Stariha drove a 2-2 pitch to center field to lead off the inning, but Hermantown turned a double play on the next at-bat to leave Superior with two outs and no runners on base. The Spartans then strung together three straight hits and back-to-back walks to bring in two runs.
E. Olson began with a single, and courtesy runner Madison Sislo scored on Lanie DeMeyer’s double to right field. Maddy Graham added another single for the Spartans, and N. Olson drew a walk to load the bases. The Hawks then walked in a run on A. Thul’s at-bat to tie the game at 3-3.
Superior had a chance to end the game in the seventh inning after loading the bases with one out, but Hermantown ended the threat when catcher Jenna Reynolds caught a foul pop-up and Vold caught a line drive.
In extra innings, Hermantown scored both of its runs on errors. The first came in the eighth inning, when Vold scored from third on a misplayed bunt.
Vold was the beneficiary of Superior’s miscues again in the 10th inning when she reached base on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a throwing error.
Superior scored its run in the eighth inning after a leadoff double by N. Olson, sac bunt by A. Thul and RBI single by Erin Thompson.
H. Thul provided the tying run in the 10th inning. She led off with a bunt single, stole second and advanced to third on Thompson’s sac bunt. Pitcher Brandie Goldberg then helped her own cause with a single to short right field to score Thul.
The Spartans left one runner on base in each of the next two innings, but E. Olson scored the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning to bring the game to a close after 3 hours and 45 minutes.
DeMeyer finished with three hits and an RBI for Superior. Stariha, E. Olson, Thompson and N. Olson all had two hits apiece.
On the mound, Goldberg picked up her third win in as many days.
“Brandie has pitched all three, and she’s pitched unbelievable in all three,” Sather said.
That comes despite a few bruising games to start the week.
“Against Cloquet she took a foul ball off her foot, and it’s all black and blue,” Sather said. “So she’s been limping around, and then (Tuesday) she took a hard groundball that one-hopped and hit her in the hand. So her pitching hand was a bit swollen.”
But the injuries didn’t slow Goldberg in Wednesday’s game. She struck out 22 batters over 13 innings, including two in the top of the final inning.
“The girl has pitched three days in a row, she pitched 13 innings, she’s limping and her hand is swollen. You tell me what that means,” Sather said, chuckling. “I think it says it for itself — that’s a competitor.”
Hermantown........ 012 000 010 100 0 — 5 11 3
Superior.............. 001 002 010 100 1 — 6 14 5
Superior 10, Cloquet 0
In Monday’s win at Braun Park, Goldberg allowed a leadoff double to Makayla Langenbrunner, picked her off second base two pitches later, and then proceeded to strike out the next 17 batters.
Goldberg also had a good day at the plate with four hits, including a double and two RBIs.
Also for the Spartans, Stariha was 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs; E. Olson doubled, singled and knocked in a run; H. Thul had two hits and an RBI; N. Olson singled; and DeMeyer had an RBI.
Josie Steen took the loss for Cloquet.
Superior 6, Denfeld 0
Goldberg finished with 15 strikeouts Tuesday, while allowing two hits with four walks in the win over the Hunters.
The Spartans scored the only run they needed in the fourth inning when Golberg hit a two-out single, courtesy runner Autumn Siers stole second and scored on E. Olson’s single.
The Spartans then gave themselves some breathing room with five runs in the sixth inning.
The big hit was a three-run double by N. Olson. DeMeyer also had an RBI single, and Goldberg knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice.
The Spartans finished with seven hits: a double and single by N. Olson and a single each by A. Thul, H. Thul, Goldberg, E. Olson and DeMeyer.
Ashley Taipale took the loss with three strikeouts and two walks.
Denfeld’s hits were singles by Shelby Johnson and Gianna Torres.
Duluth Denfeld ................. 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Superior 000 105 x — 6 7 0