ZIM — When it comes to big-game experience, the Cherry High School softball team has been through the ringer.
The Tigers ran up eight-straight Section 7A titles and one state championship, while playing in pressure-cooker situations.
When Cherry found itself down by one in the bottom of the seventh inning against Hibbing, it was just another day at the office.
With one out, the Tigers found a way to win again as Paige Chadwick hit a walk-off two-run single en route to a 6-5 victory over the Bluejackets at McDavitt Park Monday.
It was a nip-and-tuck and back-and-forth contest the whole seven innings as the Bluejackets made Cherry work for everything it got during the game.
That was alright with Tiger coach Darrell Bjerklie.
“That’s good,” Bjerklie said. “They played a good game. They got the hits when they needed them. What they did was hit our pitchers’ mistakes, and that’s good. That’s what teams are supposed to do.
“I told our girls that we shouldn’t wait until the end, then get focused and fired up. It would help if they started out that way. It’s a learning process for us, too. They have to learn, and that’s the same with Hibbing. They’ve got some younger players. They came out ready to play, and they never gave up.”
The Bluejackets would jump on the Tigers first when Anna Elias reached on an error to start the second inning, then Jacie Clusiau singled. Ayva Terzich singled to load the bases, then Maddy St. George singled home a run.
Hibbing had a chance to do some further damage, with the bases loaded and no out, but Cherry pitcher, Chadwick, struck out the next two hitters, then got the final out on a ground ball to keep the damage to a minimum.
One or two more hits and the Bluejackets may have broken the game wide open.
“We preach that, to come up in every inning and swing the bats,” Hibbing coach Bryan Terzich said. “We did that in a couple of the innings, but we didn’t in a couple of the others.
“We had the bases loaded and nobody out, and we only got the one run. That’s tough. You have to put the bat on the ball and get it into the green (outfield). That’s the name of the game. If we do that, it’s not even a game.”
Hibbing pitcher Aune Boben kept the Tigers off of the board in the second, then Chadwick faced only four hitters in the Bluejackets’ third, giving up a single to Elias.
Cherry would take a 2-1 lead in the third as Thea Besch walked, then that one inning came into play. Aliisa Mayry reached when her bunt was misplayed for an error, sending Besch to third.
Gena Mancini would bunt home a run, then Jessa Schroetter reached on an error to drive in the go-ahead run.
Hibbing would respond in the fourth as Terzich hit a lead-off single, then St. George walked. Sofia Martinez bunted them over a base, then with two out, Megan Bussey reached on an error to give the Bluejackets a 3-2 lead.
The Tigers tied it in their half of the fourth as Claire Cushman singled, took second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on a Besch single.
Hibbing responded again in the fifth as Elias doubled with one out, then Clusiau singled her home. Terzich walked, then St. George singled home Clusiau to make it 5-3.
Terzich was pleased with the way his team was able to respond in those situations.
“We’re maturing,” Terzich said. We’re getting there.”
Hibbing got a one-out single by Megan Bussey in the sixth, but they couldn’t score her. Boben set Cherry down in the order in the its half of the sixth.
Chadwick got the Bluejackets one-two-three in the seventh to set the stage for the winning rally.
“I was just hoping we’d go ahead at the end,” Bjerklie said. “I figured the game would go something like that. I knew they were going to put the ball in play on us. When they scored, you just have to keep up in the game.
“It almost turns into a basketball game. You have to keep scoring.”
At least the Tigers had the top of their order coming to the plate in the seventh.
“If they couldn’t do it, then Hibbing deserved to win, that’s the way it is,” Bjerklie said. “It’s their job. I was looking to get one in, but we were fortunate enough to get two. That’s what their job is.
“That’s what the top of the order is supposed to do.”
The inning started innocently enough as Boben got the first hitting to ground out, but Mancini doubled, then Schroetter singled. She would eventually steal second. Terzich decided to intentionally walk Katie Peterson to load the bases.
Chadwick followed with a base hit to right field, scoring the tying run easily. Ayva Terzich’s relay to the plate seemed to beat Schroetter there, but she was called safe to end the game.
It was Chadwick’s fourth hit of the game, and third RBI.
“She was huge,” Bjerklie said. “Some of the girls struggled, especially in the beginning. I’m not sure why. It was good that they came through.”
Chadwick finished with a nine-hitter, striking out five and walking two.
Boben allowed 10 hits, striking out five and walking one.
“Aune hit all of her spots today,” Terzich said. “She pitched well. I know Cherry would say the same thing about her (Chadwick). She threw strikes. We had some nice hits, we just didn’t get the timely hits when we needed them.
“We had one bad inning. We kicked the ball around, and they scored a couple of runs. That’s the difference. Aune won the day. She pitched a heck of a game. I can’t say enough about her. Defensively, we will get better.”
Elias, Clusiau, Terzich and St. George all finished with two hits.
Schroetter had three hits for the Tigers.