Gallery: Albert Lea softball team holds off Owatonna

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lynzee Underdahl of Albert Lea swings at a pitch Tuesday against Owatonna at Albert Lea's Hammer Complex. The Tigers won 7-5. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Lynzee Underdahl of Albert Lea swings at a pitch Tuesday against Owatonna at Albert Lea’s Hammer Complex. The Tigers won 7-5. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

With five games left of the regular season, the Albert Lea softball team has a chance to build on an already historic year.

The Tigers (7-7 overall, 6-5 Big Nine Conference) beat Owatonna 7-5 Tuesday at Albert Lea’s Hammer Complex to claim their fifth victory in the last six games.

“If we continue to play solid defense and keep the hits rolling, good things are going to happen,” said Albert Lea coach Dan Harms. “It’s good to be back at .500 and tied for the same amount of wins we had over last season (postseason included).”

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The regular-season win total is Albert Lea’s highest since Harms began coaching athletics at Albert Lea High School 14 years ago, he said. He took over the softball program five years ago and had his most successful season last year by leading Albert Lea to its first postseason win in more than a decade.

The momentum continued into this season, when the Tigers beat Owatonna 7-2 in their season opener on April 10. Albert Lea completed the regular-season sweep against the Huskies on Tuesday.

However, Albert Lea started slow. Owatonna scored a pair of runs in the top of the first inning and another in the third.

In the bottom of the third, Albert Lea’s bats came alive with two outs. After a base hit by Haley Harms, Taylor Thompson hit a line-drive to center field. It went in the books as a single, but Thompson rounded all the bases courtesy of two errors to cut the Tigers’ deficit to one run.

“That’s a really loud single,” coach Harms said. “It jump-started us right there.”

Thompson said she was urged to keep running the bases during Owatonna’s throwing errors.

“I was mostly looking to him (coach Harms), and then paying attention to where everyone else was,” Thompson said.

A base hit by Caycee Gilbertson scored Lynzee Underdahl and tied the game at three.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Albert Lea took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth. Again with two outs, the Tigers lit up the scoreboard. A hit down the first-base line by Alexa Wood drove in Underdahl and Kassi Hardies.

Nothing happened in the bottom of the sixth until Albert Lea had two outs again. Thompson reached first with a base hit, and she scored on a triple by Underdahl. An RBI single by Hardies scored Underdahl.

Owatonna rallied in the top of the seventh after three scoreless innings. A deep shot to center field with one out by Peyton Mensink drove in a pair of Huskies, but Albert Lea’s defense held.

Veronica Silva shed her catcher’s mask to catch a pop-up for the second out, and Harms ended the game with a strikeout.

Wind gusts up to 35 mph impacted the game.

“The wind was a factor, but it’s fair for both teams,” coach Harms said. “But there were several balls where we got on base because of pop-ups they didn’t play.”

Next, Albert Lea will play at 5 p.m. Thursday at Rochester John Marshall. However, rain is in the forecast, and the rain date is next week, Harms said.

The Rockets defeated the Tigers 7-0 at Albert Lea in their first matchup of the season on April 21.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: May 6 post.