THORP — McDonell’s Maggie Craker stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh down by three. As she looked out, runners stood on second and third. With a homer, she’d tie up the game.

It was a risk that Thorp softball coach Kurt Rhyner wasn’t willing to take. He yelled for his team to intentionally walk her.

Two batters later, Carly Jenson rolled a ground ball to third that should have ended the game, but the Cardinals couldn’t convert, allowing the Macks to score a pair and tie up the game at 4-4. A batter later, Cassie Sorenson sent a ball into center field to walk off the Cardinals with a 5-4 victory, the Macks’ third two-out walk-off victory of the season.

Sorenson’s hit dealt Thorp its first conference loss of the season and earned a split for the Macks, who remain one game behind first-place Thorp in the Western Cloverbelt standings.

“(Cassie has) worked her butt off, so to see someone that’s worked this hard and put in this much time and effort get that moment… I’m so happy for her,” McDonell coach Chelsea Seckora said.

Despite a softball sized welt on her throwing forearm, Craker pitched two complete games, tallying 213 pitches for the Macks, who lost 8-2 in the first game of their doubleheader.

“She’s tough as nails,” Seckora said. “To pitch 14 innings against a team like Thorp, that’s asking a lot of anybody.”

Craker found herself in trouble in the top of the seventh inning in game two. Thorp put runners on first and second before McDonell was able to record an out. She got Brooklynn Anderson swinging, but the ball bounced in the dirt allowing the runners to advance. Paige Rhyner hit a comebacker that Craker caught for the second out, but Thorp didn’t let up. Leadoff hitter Hailey Zurakowski hit a flyball to left, just outside of the reach of a charging Sorenson. Unable to snare it, Thorp scored a pair to break the 1-1 tie. A batter later, the Cardinals added an insurance run on a single from Danielle Stroinski.

The Cardinals’ lead was short-lived. After playing 13 innings of stellar defense, they couldn’t hold the Macks in the bottom of the inning.

“For my team to be down three in the bottom of the seventh and to not give in, that shows a lot of toughness,” Seckora said.

Rhyner said he doesn’t second guess his decision to walk Craker. He wanted to avoid her bat and it allowed Thorp to get a force-out at any base.

It was a calculated decision that didn’t work out.

“I wanted to get the winning hit,” Craker said “But, I had confidence in my team to get the win.”

Earlier in the day, Thorp showed why it’s on top of the Western Cloverbelt. The Cardinals seemed to turn every ground ball into an out and jumped on the Macks whenever they made a defensive miscue.

The fifth inning of game one started with a high pop up in the middle of the diamond. Craker and Jenson both came in to make the catch, but miscommunication almost let the ball drop. Instead, Craker took control to record the out. The rest of the inning did not go as well for the Macks.

Danielle Stroinski hit a one-out single, then stole second. Cassidy Stroinski followed with a RBI single to right. She quickly came around to score on a RBI triple from Kaitlyn Tyznik to tie the game.

McDonell couldn’t stop the bleeding when Brittany Rosemeyer rolled a groundball to third. Unable to record the out, she reached third and scored the go-ahead run. The Cardinals didn’t stop there, adding another three runs to take a 6-2 lead.

“I’m very proud of them,” Rhyner said. “We came out in the first game and played really well in all three phases of the game.”

Both teams return to action on Thursday with conference play. The Macks will head home to take on the Regis Ramblers and Thorp will face off against the Osseo-Fairchild Thunder.

Thorp 8, McDonell 2

McDonell 010 100 0 — 2 5 4

Thorp 000 062 x — 8 10 0

WP: Kaitlyn Tyznik (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K). LP: Maggie Craker (6 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 7 K)

Leading hitters — McDonell: Kaitlyn Ortmann 1-2, (RBI, BB). Thorp: Cassidy Stroinski 2-3, (R, RBI, BB), Kaitlyn Tyznik 1-2 (RBI, BB, 3B), Brittany Rosemeyer 1-4, (R, 3 RBI, 3B), Kaytlyn Stunkel 3-4, (R), Brookyln Anderson 1-2, (RBI, BB).

McDonell 5, Thorp 4

Thorp 010 000 3 — 4 9 5

McDonell 000 100 4 — 5 8 1

WP: Maggie Craker (7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K). LP: Brooklynn Anderson (2.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K).

Leading hitters — Thorp: Hailey Zurakowski 2-4, (R, 2 RBI, 3B), Cassidy Stroinski 2-4, Kaytlyn Stunkel 2-3, (R), Brianna Horn 1-1, (R). McDonell: Maggie Craker 2-3, (BB), Cassie Sorenson 2-4, (RBI), Jessica Eisenreich 2-3, (RBI).

Records: Thorp: 12-3, McDonell 9-4.