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With two wins, New York Mills aims to defend its state softball title

NORTH MANKATO, Minn.—As far as New York Mills coach Bryan Dunrud is concerned, his team is playing on borrowed time as it prepares to defend its Class 1A state title on Friday afternoon.

It's hard to blame him after he watched in awe as the Eagles rose from the dead on Thursday morning.

After entering the Class 1A state tournament as the unquestioned No. 1 overall seed, New York Mills found itself trailing unseeded Hayfield by three runs in the seventh inning of a quarterfinal matchup at Caswell Park.

With the Eagles down to their final three outs, a sense of doubt permeated throughout the dugout.

Still, the defending champs found a way.

It started with a seemingly harmless single from senior Rhiana Roberts and quickly snowballed into a hitting rampage as the next three batters got aboard to cut into the deficit.

That eventually set the stage for senior Anna Carlson, who came to the plate with the bases loaded, and promptly delivered a walk-off, two-run single to right field complete the comeback in a dramatic 6-5 win.

"Just standing in that batter's box there was a lot of pressure and after I got that hit it was the best feeling in the world," Carlson said. "It was definitely the biggest hit of my life."

As his players walked off the field after the game, a teary-eyed Dunrud could hardly contain himself.

"I wanted that win for them as much as I've wanted any win in my entire life," Dunrud said. "When we were backed up into a corner, and truly had to claw our way out, we were able to do that. I'm speechless."

Asked how he planned to get his team re-focused before the semifinal matchup later that night, Dunrud was completely unconcerned.

"They were given a second chance," Dunrud said. "Now that we have some momentum, I can't wait to carry it over into tonight."

It turns out, Dunrud knows exactly what he's talking about, as New York Mills managed to ride that wave to a comparatively low-stress 5-3 win over Randolph.

"It speaks volumes about this group," Dunrud said. "We showed up and were ready to play and got the job done."

Roberts went the distance for the second consecutive game and got some much-needed insurance in the fourth inning when senior Allison Stafki and sophomore Tiffany Thompson hit back-to-back home runs.

Thompson added another home run for good measure in the sixth inning as the Eagles capped a crazy day with a win.

"I think the momentum that we have right now is going to continue to carry us," Roberts said. "We know what our potential is. We just need to live up to that."