MANKATO — The unseeded Eden Prairie High School softball team had a runner on second and a 1-0 lead over No. 3-seeded East Ridge when it hit a ball sharply up the middle.
What happened next maybe changed the outcome of Thursday’s Class 4-A state quarterfinal, at the very least, it changed the momentum.
While the ball made it through the infield, there was an encounter between the Eden Prairie base runner and the East Ridge shortstop.
East Ridge was claiming player interference. Eden Prairie was saying the shortstop had deliberately run at the base runner.
“I had warned the umpire that this could happen,” said Eden Prairie coach Dan Rubischko, “and then it happened.”
The umpires huddled and ruled base-runner interference, meaning the Eden Prairie runner, who had advanced to third on the play, was called out.
“When you are playing a really good team like we were, you need things to fall your way,” said Rubischko. “We could have had runners on first and third with one out. If we get a key hit, who knows what happens?”
Eden Prairie counted a third out trying to steal second.
East Ridge responded in a big way in the bottom half of the inning, erasing a 1-0 deficit with five ground-ball hits.
The result was a five-run inning.
“Our worst inning of the playoffs,” said Rubischko. “Heck, it might have been our worst inning of the whole season.”
Two of the Raptors’ five ground-ball hits made it through the infield and the outfield.
Neither team scored the rest of the rest of the way and the game ended in a 5-1 Eden Prairie loss.
“To beat a team like that, you need to score first,” said the coach. “We did that. You also need to put pressure on their defense. We were doing that, until that call.
“There’s no way that was right,” he added.
The loss dropped the Eagles into the consolation bracket, where they’d play Edina, a team they had beaten twice during the regular season.
“We scored three in the first inning,” said Rubischko. “They scored two in the fourth and then tied it in the fifth.”
Eden Prairie answered with two runs in the top of the sixth inning. Final score: Eden Prairie 5, Edina 3.
The win marked Eden Prairie’s 20th win of the season.
“That’s a heck of an accomplishment for a group of girls who set winning a Lake Conference title as goal back in the spring,” said Rubischko. “They didn’t even talk about the section, yet there they were, playing in the state tournament.”
Eden Prairie’s season ended with a 4-2 loss to St. Michael-Albertville in the consolation finals.
Eden Prairie finished its season with a 20-8 overall record, a Lake Conference championship and a Section 2-4A championship.
“We didn’t have anyone named All-Metro and don’t have anyone going to the All-Star series,” said Rubischko. “We weren’t ranked in the Top-10, yet finished sixth at state.
“That speaks volumes to the type of team we have,” he added. “They came together and played as one.”