By JOAQUIN AGUILAR
For the Herald and News
MERRILL — Yulisa Alonzo did not realize what had just happened. She had no idea she had hit a home run until she nearly reached second base.
Alonzo’s first home run as a softball player came at no greater time in a heated first-round Class 2A/1A state playoff game for the Lost River Raiders against Colton Monday.
The Raiders were left looking for answers after they were held scoreless for the first five innings and the Vikings held a 2-0 lead.
It was the perfect moment for the late-game heroics by Alonzo.
Lost River came back to tie the game in the bottom sixth inning, 5-5.
With a runner on third and second base, Alonzo was not fazed with the pressure of the game with two outs and sent the ball far past the left field fence for a home run that eventually got the Raiders to the second round of the playoffs.
“Before, I was thinking there is two outs, we have to get some runs in right now if we want to win this game. As soon as I hit that, I was like OK, did this just happen. I did not even know where the ball went,” Alonzo said.
“I thought, it probably just hit the bench right there, but I did not even think it went over. Not until I saw my coach at first base, she was like good job and I was like, what did I just do. We all wanted it really badly, so we worked for it.”
The Raiders finally woke up in the fifth inning and came up with three runs in the frame.
Alonzo also came up big in the fifth when she had a RBI single after an error by the Vikings helped score a run.
Ximena Lemus then followed with a RBI single.
The Raiders were hurt by a two-run homer by Lauren Reed to give Colton a 5-3 lead going into the sixth inning before Alonzo had her game-winning moment.
Senior Makenzie Girtman came in to pitch for junior Madison Hartman after Reed’s home run.
She allowed one hit the rest of the contest, which included no hits in the top seventh.
“Once we finally realized, hey we are still in this, we gradually chipped away at them until dinger (Alonzo) over here. I think just coming in knowing that placement is crucial is what matters,” Hartman said.
“Especially going into playoffs, being a pitcher is one of the biggest parts of the team and if you place the ball well and they have to reach for it or it is a challenge for them to hit it, it makes it easier for your teammates and it is a better game.”
Under third-year head coach Kristine Hartman, the Raiders have made the playoffs twice.
The Raiders had one of their best finishes in school history two years ago when they were ranked No. 10 in the state and made it to the quarterfinals.
Hartman coached most of the players on her current roster back during Little League.
“This is the most well rounded team that I have seen at Lost River in a long time. Batting until the ninth batter has really helped us,” Hartman said.
“I think we just never gave up. After we had that inning where we had a lot more runs, we picked ourselves up and had a lot of energy and kept it going,” Madison Hartman said. “We eventually realized that we can do this after the nerves fell off and it felt way more comfortable.”
The Raiders will have a difficult task when they play No. 1 Grant Union/Prairie City Wednesday.
“Going into it, knowing it is my senior year, I knew this was the last chance. I wanted to give it all I have and know that all the hard work has paid off during what, the last 10 years, or whatever years I have played softball,” Girtman said.
“I knew that I needed to give it all my effort and that all my hard work is going to go into this game in throwing and doing everything I can.”