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    Royalty reigns as Rogers wins Class 4A softball title

    By By Erik Nelson Contributing Writer,


    All of the Rogers fans stood in anticipation at Caswell Park in North Mankato on June 7. The Royals were one out away from the program’s first state softball championship. After a moment’s hesitation, the second-base umpire called the New Prague runner out at second. The Royals then lept from the dugout and piled onto each other to celebrate Rogers’ first state softball title in school history.

    Rogers (22-3) defeated New Prague (21-4) as Minnesota crowned a new Class 4A state softball champion. Neither program had won a state championship. The Royals hadn’t been to the state tournament since 2005, while the Trojans’ hadn’t played at the state tournament since 2016.

    Royals head coach Jerry Bruns said he felt relaxed after Rogers recorded the game’s final out.

    “This group worked together whenever they could,” Bruns said.

    After a scoreless first inning, the Royals scored the important first run of the game when junior second baseman Olivia Ohme doubled to right field, allowing junior third baseman Brianna Ness to score. Eighth-grade pitcher AnnaBelle Waldoch held down the fort for Rogers and got out of a second-inning, bases-loaded jam thanks to a double play with the 1-0 lead in tact.

    “I don’t think we played a better defensive game since I’ve been coaching here at Rogers,” Royals assistant coach Chris Donnay said.

    Neither the Royals nor the Trojans scored in the third or fourth innings. In the fifth inning, senior catcher Kami Messer extended Rogers’ lead with an RBI double to left-center field. Junior center fielder Amanda Barnacle scored the Royals’ second run. It was as if Messer had poured gasoline on the Royals’ energetic bench and allowed it to explode. Her walk-up song is “Gasolina” by Latin rap legend Daddy Yankee.

    Messer said that although she is not Latina, she and her teammates have listened to the song for years and have gained energy from the music.

    “It gets me in the zone,” she said.

    The Royals added another insurance run in the seventh inning when freshman designated hitter Avery Freeberg hit an RBI double to allow senior Ashley Schoon-Kollie to score.

    Waldoch recorded a scoreless seventh inning to seal the win and the state title for Rogers.

    Donnay said the Royals laid it all on the line from day one of this season. He has been coaching softball for more than 20 years and has been with the program since day one.

    “We knew we had something special,” he said. “They came down here and proved it.”

    Messer said Rogers’ 2024 softball state championship shows that the Royals should now be a respected program.

    “Rogers High School can do this,” she said. “We are a top-contending team. I’m looking forward to seeing what the team does next year and the upcoming years.”

    Player of the Game

    Waldoch threw her second complete-game shutout of the tournament. She allowed only three hits and threw seven strikeouts while allowing four walks. She also blanked Edina (17-11) 7-0 in Rogers’ Class 4A quarterfinal win on Wednesday, June 5. The Royals allowed only five runs in three state tournament games while scoring 17 for a run differential of +12.

    “Her teammates played some awesome defense behind her,” Bruns said. “When she needed to make a pitch, she did.”

    Waldoch’s mother, Angie Waldoch [née Recknor] also played in the state softball tournament and later went on to pitch for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

    “This is a huge team accomplishment,” AnnaBelle Waldoch said. “We hadn’t been to state since 2005 and we came here and won the whole thing. I was nervous, but my teammates had my back.”

    Messer said she was able to calm down AnnaBelle Waldoch when she was nervous because Messer had been through tough situations before.

    “She is younger in the mental state,” Messer said. “I’m glad that I have all of that experience of the past years to help her work through each inning.”

    Aftermath and what’s next

    Following handshakes with the Trojans and seeing New Prague accept silver medals and the Class 4A runner-up trophy, the Royals received gold medals and the Class 4A championship trophy. Messer, Lauren Freeberg and AnnaBelle Waldoch were named to the Class 4A all-tournament team for their outstanding performances over the last three games.

    Five seniors from Rogers’ state tournament-winning team have graduated from Rogers High School. They are Messer, Schoon-Kollie, shortstop Lauren Freeberg, and first basemen Addison Pflipsen and Lexie Young. A majority of this Rogers’ team should return next season.

    Rogers sophomore pitcher Kyla O’Keefe said she knew the Royals could win the state championship on the first day of the season.

    “I’ve always known that we have the potential to go this far,” O’Keefe said. “I’m so glad that it came true.”

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