The Faribault Bethlehem Academy Cardinals defeated Blooming Prarie and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva on Thursday night to capture the Gopher Conference championship.

Freshman Delaney Donahue pitched the 5-0 shutout of the No. 9 ranked Awesome Blossoms of Blooming Prairie and senior Shelby Meyer started and Donahue finished the 14-11 slugfest with the Panthers of NRHEG.

Donahue allowed just seven hits to state-ranked Blooming Prairie in the first game and struck out 10 batters.

The Cardinals manufactured a run in the first inning to take a quick 1-0 lead when Tess Glenzinski got on base and did what she does, steal second base. Back-to-back sacrifices by Breanna Degrood and Grace Viland brought the speedy junior outfielder home.

The 1-0 lead continued until the fifth inning when Bethlehem Academy's No. 8 and No. 9 hitters Delaney Donahue and freshman designated player Nicole Menard clubbed back-to-back doubles to make it 2-0.

The Cardinals added three runs in the bottom of the sixth when junior catcher Grace Viland, senior shortstop Shelby Meyer and junior first baseman Meagan Donahue cracked successive singles to start the inning. Junior third baseman Jessica Oathoudt sacrificed a run in, freshman right fielder Kate Jasinski collected an RBI single and Delaney Donahue smacked an RBI single to finish the scoring.

The Cardinals maximized their eight hits in what head coach Mara Viland called, "our best game of the season."

Senior Elly Strunk was in the pitching circle for state-ranked Blooming Prairie.

The wind picked up and it got downright blustery by the second game, with some fans watching from their vehicles to stay warm.

The Cardinals opened the game with a Glenzinski walk, and she stole second and third and was brought home by a Degrood single. Degood stole second and was sacrificed to third by Viland before coming home on a Meyer RBI single.

Bethlehem Academy had a 2-0 lead.

NRHEG scored five runs in the second to take the lead, but it didn't last long. The Cardinals responded with six runs of their own on six hits.

The big blow was a two-RBI single by Viland followed by RBI singles by Meyer and Meagan Donahue.

The Panthers would claw out two runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings Bethlehem Academy exploded with five runs in the sixth.

Glenzinski was hit by a pitch, was sacrificed to second and stole third base. She scored on a single by Viland. The second out was recorded and then Bethlehem Academy got five straight singles. Ten hitters would step in the batter's box in that productive inning.

Viland was unsure if the win would factor in the section seedings because some coaches already had sent in their picks for Friday's decision. She told me the coaches were told to have their picks in by 8:30 Friday morning.

Bethlehem Academy looked like a three seed going into the doubleheader Thursday evening and could make a case for No. 1 after the sweep.

Hayfield beat the Cardinals but lost to Blooming Prairie.

Those three will be the top three seeds, the question is in what order?

It was senior day with a lot of laughter and tears following the game when the team and coach had gifts for Shelby Meyer and Breanna Degrood. Both said it was pretty cool to end their careers at Bethlehem Academy with a Gopher Conference championship.

Bethlehem Academy Senior Salute Posters- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Bethlehem Academy Senior Salute Posters- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Bethlehem Academy Seniors Shelby Meyer-L and Breanna Degrood- photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Bethlehem Academy Seniors Shelby Meyer-L and Breanna Degrood- photo by Gordy Kosfeld

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