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James Gang 16U captures Mankato tournament championship

Sean Ellertson
Taylor Sodeman rips a double off the wall against the Gamblers on Saturday afternoon, one of Sodeman's three doubles on the weekend.

Last weekend, the James Gang 16U roster went undefeated in six contents, sweeping their way to a first-place finish in Mankato.

In their tournament opener on Friday night, the James Gang beat the Mankato Peppers 16U 11-0 behind the strength of a no-hitter from Addie Bowers.

Bowers pitched five innings and struck out ten.

The James Gang bats tallied five runs in the first and six in the fourth.

The James Gang recorded seven hits in the contest, including one from Ellie Becker. Becker ripped a double to center field on the first live pitch she's seen since 4th grade.

On Saturday morning, a three-run fifth inning propelled the James Gang to win over B4 out of Brooklyn Park, 4-1.

B4 tagged Bowers for a run in the opening frame, but the James Gang responded in the top of the second.

Taylor Sodeman doubled to left-center with two outs. Ava Rohmsadl followed suit with a double into the left-center field alley to score Sodeman.

Bowers tossed perfect innings in the second and third. A two-out error in the fourth was erased as Sodeman gunned down a runner trying to steal second. 

In the top of the fifth still knotted at 1-1, Chloe Mickelson doubled with one out to get the James Gang in business. Kelsey Grunewald dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and following some confusion from B4, Mickelson scampered home for the go-ahead run.

Sam Tetzloff followed with a single to center to score Grunewald. Tetzloff advanced to second on a wild pitch. The throw back to the pitcher got away, and Tetzloff managed to score from second for an important insurance run.

Bowers threw a perfect final three innings to cap off the win. The righty hurler surrendered one run on two walks and one hit, all of which came in the first inning, and rung up ten.

Later on Saturday, the James Gang bats once again sprung to life early, beating the Gamblers 15-1 in a four-inning win. 

The offense scored six runs in the first inning on the strength of a single from Grunewald, a double by Sodeman, and a Rohmsdahl single.

The offense stayed hot in the second inning.

Ellie Becker started with a single to center. Allie Malmgren followed with another single up the middle. A pair of errors and a wild pitch allowed Becker, Malmgren, and Mackenzie Christensen to score. Mickelson added a sacrifice fly to score Corbin Tatro, pushing the lead to 10-0.

A one-run third inning was followed by another four-run inning the fourth.

Tatro came on to pitch the fourth inning and surrendered a run on a wild pitch.

The 15-1 win polished off an almost perfect pool play for the James Gang, who outscored their opponents 30-2 in the three games.

Even with the lack of a high school softball season, the James Gang showed minimal, if any, signs of rust.

"I expected probably a little more rust that we saw," said head coach Averie Barrett. "I more expected them to get over-anxious and excited and go crazy that way and see more errors. I'm pleasantly surprised that it was way less."

Taylor Sodeman flashed in all three games, throwing out a trio of runners and provided some pop with her bat.

"I've seen her go from a lot of confidence when she was little— her natural ability and genetic gifts were great but then we saw a little doubt creep in," said Barrett. "Now we're getting back to where she's wanting to step up and be that person."

"I don't call pitches like a lot of other coaches do. I make the catchers do it because I think that's an important part of the game that they need to know so I've had her working with Addie and the pitchers. Her bat, if we can keep it going, is a double threat."

Sunday's opening game against New Ulm provided a much-needed test. 

New Ulm scored three runs in the opening inning on Bowers.

Bowers helped her own cause in the bottom of the first, belting a home run to get the James Gang on the board.

In the bottom of the third, Becker came through once again with a line drive into right field to score Maddie Brey.

In the bottom of the sixth, Christensen stepped into the box with two outs and the bases loaded with the James Gang still chasing a run.

Christensen delivered with a single to left over the third baseman's head, plating Maren Dougherty and Becker, giving the James Gang the win.

"Mackenzie had struggled throughout the tournament to find her bat but she came up with a perfect little bleeder over the third baseman to score two runs and get us the win," said Barrett.

In their semifinals match against Range Sports Stars, a four-run fourth and more brilliance from Bowers on the pitching circle guided the James Gang to a 5-1 win and a spot in the championship game.

In the gold bracket championship game against the MN Misfits out of Lake Crystal, the James Gang scored two runs in the first on the strength of a Grunewald triple and Tetzloff reaching via error.

A double from Brey in the fourth and a double from Sodeman in the fifth extended the lead to 4-0 and propelling the Gang to a 5-2 win and a first-place finish.

"This team is really great because I can pretty much put the most people anywhere on the field and be confident in their abilities," said Barrett. "We still have some things to work on but that’s understandable since these are their first games this year."

Tetzloff led the bats with a .636 batting average across the six games. Grunewald batted .417 and knocked in four runs. Malmgren also had four RBI on the weekend.