Every game, Pleasant Valley’s softball team is trying to make a statement.
With an offense that has gotten red hot and pitching that has been lights out, PV’s statement was made perfectly clear Saturday night.
Powered by the top of the order and by taking advantage of defensive miscues, the Class 5A top-ranked Spartans cruised into the regional championship with an emphatic 11-0 semifinal victory over Davenport Central in just over an hour at Scott Community College.
They’ll face 13th-ranked Burlington, a team they ended the conference season against six days ago, on Tuesday night at home for the right to go to Fort Dodge.
“They’re seeing the ball big, like a big melon,” PV head coach Jose Lara said. “Our pitcher was on, our catching was on, defense, hitting, it was all on.”
Carli Spelhaug got the train rolling for the Spartans (32-7) two pitches into her at-bat.
The junior drilled a home run to left-center field that ignited an offense that has scored 10 or more runs in four consecutive contests.
Ellie Spelhaug added a run-scoring double and Alexia Lara drove in the third run of the inning on a single that gave Ellie a comfortable cushion.
The Bradley basketball recruit tossed four innings of perfect ball while striking out eight Blue Devil (9-21) batters and allowing one baserunner.
“I was hitting my spots and staying open for awhile,” Ellie Spelhaug said. “Jose called a great game, Peggy did a great job framing getting me those calls. Everything clicked.”
No. 4 through No. 9 hitters in the PV lineup combined for one hit, but Jessi Meyer and Mallory Lafever got on base three combined times to generate more opportunities.
Hitting eighth, Meyer reached on an error and stole second that allowed Carli Spelhaug to drive her in with a single in the second to kickstart a 4-run inning.
The exact same situation occurred in the third for Pleasant Valley as it finished off Central with another four runs aided by two errors.
“That’s huge,” Ellie Spelhaug said. “When anyone can set up Carli, the odds of her driving them in is pretty big. Just for them to do something small, we need that.”
The Spelhaugs each had three hits and three runs batted in. Emily Wood had a pair of hits and three runs scored as the trio went a combined 8-for-10 from the plate.
Central loses two seniors but returns pitcher Cindy Gabriel-Flores as well as seven other juniors to go along with its highest winning total in eight years.
“I’m proud of the girls, we’re happy,” Blue Devils coach Matt Verdon said. “I just hope the younger kids step up and make the commitment to get better in the offseason.”
While coach Lara has refrained from talking much about a return trip to the state tournament, he knows it’s well within reach with one more game to go.
“They know what it takes to get to where we want to go,” he said. “They’re focused and they’re ready.”