Erica Ralfs and Kaylie Caldwell were caught off guard by Davenport Central’s hitters during a conference doubleheader on June 27.
Despite Davenport West winning both games by the 10-run mercy rule, the Blue Devils strung together a total of 19 hits.
“Their hitters have gotten a lot better, and I think that me and Kaylie were nervous,” Ralfs said.
When the two intra-city rivals met for a third time Thursday night, Ralfs and Caldwell kept Central quiet at the plate.
Ralfs tossed three innings of one-hit ball while striking out three batters and Caldwell allowed just one base runner to power the Falcons to a 10-0 five-inning win in their Class 5A regional quarterfinal at the West Sports Complex.
West (18-20) moves on to the regional semifinals and a date with sixth-ranked Iowa City High on Saturday night. It’ll be a rematch from a game in early June, a 4-0 victory by the Little Hawks.
“As the season's gone on, both our pitchers have become stronger, are hitting their spots a lot better and executing their pitches,” Falcons interim coach Jim Weisrock said. “I wanted to get both of them in the game ready to go for Saturday.”
Before the Falcons could experience highs, they went through some lows.
After splitting against Burlington and defeating Waterloo East, they lost five in a row — all to ranked teams in Class 5A, 4A and 3A — before defeating Fort Madison two days ago.
“I think those five games, more than anything, prepared us for these last two,” Weisrock said. “We know we can play with really, really strong teams. That can only help us get better.”
That preparation paid off as West got its leadoff batter on base in all five innings, scoring in four of them.
Rylee Rommel led off the first with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and kept the jets on, rounding second forcing an errant throw and scoring for the 1-0 lead.
“I always think two bases ahead so I was looking for three,” Rommel said. “I think I was making a smart choice being aggressive. If you’re not aggressive, it might not work out the way you want it to.”
Being aggressive sparked the bats in the second frame.
Plating five runs on five hits and one Blue Devils (7-23) error broke the game open and saw the advantage balloon to 6-0.
Rommel, Caldwell and Emma Lee drove in runs in the inning.
“If we get that leadoff batter on and we execute our small-ball game, we’re a really good team,” Weisrock said. “When we execute our small ball and we execute on the field, we can compete with anybody in the state.”
Lee belted a three-run home run in the fourth, and Taylor Utterback drove in the game-ending run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Kaitlyn Powell went 3-for-3 at the plate while Lee drove in four runs.
It’s the fourth time this season West has ended a contest early.
“It’s a confidence boost,” Ralfs said.
Central had a big chance to score in the fourth, but a base running error kept them off the scoreboard.
Erin Puck drove a deep fly ball to left-center field with Merlin Crowder on third. Crowder left too early and had to retreat back.
Both of the Blue Devils runners were stranded in scoring position.
Davenport Central loses seven seniors next year.
As for West, with an offense that has struck for double digit runs in the last two games, Rommel believes they are getting hot at the right time.
“We know we can compete with them, we know we can play with them,” she said. “We just go on and try as hard as we can.”