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Waconia Student Athlete, 16, Killed In Crash Near Mankato

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Waconia high school athlete was killed Friday evening in a car crash near Mankato, according to her softball team.

Alexia "Lexi" Kretsch, 16, was driving northbound on Highway 169 when a car traveling eastbound on County Road 33 crossed in front of her, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Kretsch, the sole occupant in her vehicle, swerved to avoid hitting the car, went off the road and rolled over. She was airlifted to Rochester, where several of her teammates would see her alive for the last time.

The passengers in the other car, 75-year-old Michael Hiniker and 73-year-old Mary Hiniker, were not injured. They are both from Mankato.

On Saturday, teammates played on without her, and it wasn't easy -- Kretsch was the team's pitcher. Other teams honored Kretsch as well, by bearing her number 2 on their arms.

Aside from her mother and grandmother, softball was a source of strength for Kretsch, and her teammates were with her through the end. She was a standout player, pitching in the highest league possible for the Minnesota Vortex.

Friends say she will be sorely missed as the star pitcher, but that's only the beginning.

Kretsch's coach Bob Mochinski led the team in an emotional huddle before the game started.

"Every team asked if they could be part of our prayer," Mochinski said, noting that even the umpires joined in. "It was real special."

They were still competing but united by the No. 2, and the color blue, by bearing navy ribbons.

"She's just all athlete. She's just one of the most committed players I ever coached," said coach Mochinski. "She practiced sometimes, I thought, too much."

Together, her close friends Emily Eaton and Emily Sarer spoke after Saturday's game.

"She was an amazing player, always gave her heart, always put it out on the field," they said.

They were two of Kretsch's closest friends. They all got the call late Thursday.

"We got in the car and we drove down, and at that point, mom had just received the news that she had no brain activity," coach Mochinski said.

"I wasn't sure, being so young, me being so young if I wanted to see her, when I was told, this was some closure, she'd want me to say goodbye, she'd want me to do it," Eaton said. "It was hard but I'm glad I did it. I held her hand and told her I loved her, and that's all I really can do."

At Saturday's game, when Kretsch should have been pitching, there were moments of normalcy, and those moments when grief took over.

"I was thinking she's supposed to be here," Eaton said.

Everyone agreed she is supposed to be there, but they decided to play on -- and to pray on.

"We just prayed for God to help us get through the week as a team and to do all we could to help Lexi's mother and her grandmother," Mochinski said.

Community members set up a memorial fund for Kretsch, which you can donate to online, or by calling 507-354-3165. You can also donate directly to Citizens Bank on 105 North Minnesota Street in New Ulm.

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