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Red Lake Falls shakes off slow start, downs Sacred Heart

Two games into the fastpitch season, defending Minnesota Section 8A champion Red Lake Falls was winless and had scored a total of only five runs.

Veteran Eagles coach Ben Hanson took the slow start in stride.

"I wasn't concerned,'' Hanson said. "Those games were against two of the best teams (Norman County East/U-H and Thief River Falls) we'll play all year. And we hadn't practiced outside on our field yet and it showed.''

Red Lake Falls has bounced back from its slow start, improving to 7-4 with a 14-4 road win Thursday at East Grand Forks Sacred Heart.

The only two losses since the first two games of the season have been to another 8A power, Badger-Greenbush-Middle River.

The win marked the ninth straight game in which RLF has scored five or more runs and the seventh time in that span it has reached double figures.

"Our hitting has been a bit of a surprise,'' said Hanson, whose team graduated four starters from last season's team. "We had some girls coming back—Brooke Knott, Shelby Breiland, Olivia Bulger—who we knew were good hitters. But we have other girls who have really come on with the bats.

"One through nine in the lineup, we have good balance.''

That showed against Sacred Heart. Red Lake Falls totaled 14 hits. Seven of the nine starters had at least one hit, including two apiece by Knott, Breiland, Kia McGlynn, Jenessa Kelley and Mya Seeger.

Red Lake Falls took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, sending nine hitters to the plate in an outburst capped by Abbie Johanneck's 2-run double.

Red Lake Falls put away the win with a 5-run fifth inning, again sending nine batters to the plate.

The balance is shown in that Red Lake Falls has three regulars—Knott, Breiland and Kelley— hitting better than .400 and five others are batting better than .320.

Sacred Heart managed nine hits off RLF pitcher Shawna Larson.

"The three pitchers we've used have been pretty consistent,'' Hanson said. "They won't overpower batters. They mix their pitches up and locate well.''

Lily Zimprich, Kloe Wavra and Sarah Kraft each had two hits for 3-4 Sacred Heart, with Wavra driving in two runs with a second-inning double.

"Ireland (Hanson, losing pitcher) does a nice job for us,'' Sacred Heart coach Jonathon Vonesh said. But, he added, Red Lake Falls "hits the ball well. They crush it. They hit more gaps than we did and took advantage of our mistakes.''