Thunder drop first section game to Big Lake in extra innings
The No. 5 Zimmerman Thunder started the Section 5AAA tournament against No. 4 Big Lake on the road, losing an extra inning game, 9-8, on May 22.“We had a few defensive errors that allowed Big Lake to get into scoring position,” Thunder head coach Emily Zahn However, I was happy that the girls were on the attack offensively from the start, so I’m hoping we can carry that into our next game on Thursday.”
Zimmerman scored four runs in the first inning, but the Hornets were able to bounce back. By the seventh inning, the score was knotted up at 6, but both teams were held scoreless, forcing extra innings.
In the eighth, Mya Miller and Trisko came around to score after reaching base to lead off the inning, but the Hornets responded with three in the bottom half of the inning to record a 9-8 walk-off victory.
Trisko and Hope Wiley led the team with four hits each, while Olene pitched all eight innings in the loss.
Up next, the Thunder play No. 8 St. Cloud Apollo at 4 p.m. on May 24 at Becker High School. With a win, they’d advance to play the loser of the quarterfinal game between No. 2 Becker and No. 3 Willmar at around 6 p.m. With a loss, their season is over since the section tournament is double elimination.
In total, the Thunder have to win four straight games in order to advance to the championship round.
Zimmerman breaks through for first win of the season
It felt like a long time coming for the Zimmerman softball team.
After countless days practicing in the gym and two straight losses to begin the season, the Thunder finally got themselves in the win column, defeating Princeton, 10-5, at home on April 30.
“Good thing to get (the first win) out of the way. We’re young, but luckily the girls have a lot of confidence, so it hides some of our youth,” Thunder softball coach Emily Zahn said. “It was good to get the bats going and get the win. We really needed it.”
With the season scheduled to start on April 10, it would have been crazy to think the Thunder would get their first victory the day before the start of May. But due to a prolonged winter, Zimmerman had to cancel or postpone six games prior to their first one against Coon Rapids on April 24.
Dropping the first one to the Cardinals, 11-1, the Thunder followed it up with an 8-6 loss to Little Falls on April 26. But, a disappointing start to the season soon was the last thing in their minds after Ella Haas broke the game open in the fifth inning with a bases loaded triple – scoring all three runners – leading to their first victory.
Haas is one of five underclassmen – making up nearly half the team – and while their youth can be looked at as a weakness, it sure came through in this one.
“We had a freshman pitcher (Sylvia Cabak) make her first varsity start and quite a few freshman around the field. So, I think they all have that feeling of something to prove,” Zahn said. “Ella hit that triple down the line and Sylvia pitched a great game, hitting her spots really well. So, I think it’s good (to have a young team trying to prove themselves) because they have that hunger that you can lack when you have a group of older girls that have been around for awhile. Although we have some things to clean up, their energy is making the ball games lots of fun.”
On top of Cabak’s and Haas’ superb performances, the Thunder saw production up and down the lineup – with everyone reaching base at least once.
Junior Hope Wiley got the scoring started in the first inning, knocking in Jolie Putnam (10) and Savannah Olson (12) with a two-out double. This came after Princeton scored two runs in the top half of the inning.
One inning later, the Thunder took the lead by scoring two more runs. While Princeton tied it up at 4 soon after, Zimmerman’s big fifth inning sealed the game – with Kayla Trisko (12) adding one RBI and S. Olson hitting a two-run double to go along with Haas’ three-run triple.
Altogether, Zahn was pleased with the team’s ability to close out the game and come through in key situations – something they struggled to do in their first two games. She hopes they can build on a winning performance, noting the importance of keeping the bats going to help out a young pitching staff.
“Getting the bats going is important and now they have that confidence (after a win),” Zahn said. “If you get on a streak of too many losses, it can get in their heads, especially when you have young pitchers and starters. So getting that first win and confidence should keep us going in the right direction.”
Up next, the Thunder were scheduled to play at Mora on May 1 followed by a matchup at Foley on May 3. They return home to play Albany on May 7.
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Athlete of the week: Maddie Jacob, Zimmerman, softball: Worth the wait
Maddie Jacob wasn’t eligible for varsity sports at Zimmerman until her junior year, due to a transfer, but once she was able to suit up, the Thunder added a smart, talented, level-headed veteran in three sports.
Jacob, who got the school’s Athena Award as top senior athlete, made all-conference as a softball leadoff hitter and center fielder as a junior, and has started this season 7-for-11 with five stolen bases in three games.
She was twice all-conference as a defender in soccer, which will be her college sport at University of Sioux Falls. She also played basketball and was a captain in all three sports.
“She is very mature, does everything you ask and works hard every day,” softball coach Emily Zahn said. “She plays through pain, never complains, leads by example and gets along great with teammates.”
Jacob attended PACT Charter in Ramsey through ninth grade and played varsity in all three sports during junior high. When PACT’s co-op with Spectrum dissolved, the rosters got a little sparse. That’s when Jacob, whose family now lives in Zimmerman, decided to switch schools.
She played on Thunder JVs her sophomore year; that’s the rule if you transfer after ninth grade. But she was worth waiting for.
In soccer, her best and favorite sport, Jacob helped Zimmerman generate their two best back-to-back seasons, 9-6-2 her junior year and 12-4-2 as a senior with two playoff wins before losing to section champion Princeton 1-0.
“Maddie helped to take soccer to the next level with her leadership and role-modeling,” coach Jeff Downing said. “More than an awesome defender, Maddie is one of the best teammates anyone could ask for. She is full of grace, and very humble and always seeks ways to make her team better.”
Jacob played center back, the last line of defense, and was a key cog as the Thunder set a school record for wins (12), shutouts (seven) and goals allowed (56) last fall. The team struggled when she took a break, Downing noted. Her strong leg provided quality corner kicks and smart passes to teammates in transition and she was the go-to player on restarts, both throw-ins and free kicks.
In softball, once Zahn got her on varsity, the coach convinced her to switch from right-handed to the left side and become a “slap” hitter to capitalize on her speed. Jacob batted .317 with 13 stolen bases last year.
“I think it’s working out pretty well,” Jacob said. “I try to get the ball on the ground and beat out hits. I’ve learned to place the ball better, too, to the outfield.”
Jacob was an off-guard on the 12-15 basketball team this winter, contributing in several areas while not excelling in any. She averaged 6.2 points with a high game of 17.
Jacob said her top sports thrill is the soccer team breaking those school records last fall. Her school highlights also include getting Student of the Year at both PACT and ZHS in ninth and 10th grades, respectively.
Jacob has one more prep season to do something special as the softballers have all but one starter back from a 12-9 team.
“I think we really do have potential,” Jacob said. “My biggest goal is to just play as well as we are capable, but of course, I would really like to make state with this team.”