LETTS, Iowa — The Louisa-Muscatine softball team has just seven hits and two runs in the last two games. And yet, the Falcons are headed back to state for the second year in a row.
Hailey Sanders struck out 13 and didn’t allow a run as Louisa-Muscatine edged Wlliamsburg 1-0 to clinch a trip to the state tournament in Fort Dodge.
“It’s amazing, indescribable,” Hailey Sanders said. “I know we can play with anyone.”
“It sets the bar higher,” Louisa-Muscatine coach Butler said. “We’re looking forward to it. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
The Falcons’ junior pitcher has 44 strikeouts and hasn’t allowed an earned run in three postseason games. Her latest strikeout was the most important one yet, as Hailey Sanders rang up Williamsburg’s Peyton Driscoll with runners on second and third to end the game.
“She’s just a machine,” Butler said. “She’s a very smart softball player in addition to being able to throw the way she does. … She’s an elite pitcher and I would match her up with anybody in the state.”
The Class 3A No. 2 Falcons (33-4) needed every one of those 13 strikeouts, as their offense sputtered for a second consecutive game. They managed just three hits and struggled to handle Driscoll’s changeup, but were still able to manufacture a run in the bottom of the third inning.
“She just kept us off balance all night,” Butler said of Driscoll, Williamsburg’s pitcher. “We took a lot of good pitches tonight. When you take a good pitch from a pitcher like that she’s going to work you over.”
Senior Katie Koppe, who has struggled at the plate in the last few weeks, started the third inning with a single into right field. Mallory Mashek reached on an error and then Mallory Hohenadel advanced both runners with a bunt.
Then, junior Kylee Sanders laid down a bunt to score Koppe.
“It was a really good feeling knowing I started it,” Koppe said. “Once we scored it was a big relief.”
However, the Falcons went from possibly having runners on the corners with one out to just one runner on third with two outs. Kylee Sanders was called out at first for rounding the base with Driscoll, Williamsburg’s pitcher, back in the circle.
McKenna Hohenadel grounded out to end the inning, but that was all the run support Hailey Sanders needed.
Class 3A No. 10 Williamsburg (31-12) put runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but Hailey Sanders pitched her way out of the jam. The Raiders only generated one base runner in the next three innings and didn’t threaten in any of them.
It seemed Hailey Sanders would cruise through the seventh, too, but a two-out walk complicated things. Then, Willamsburg’s Megan Lamparek ripped a double into center field, but L-M’s McKenna Hohenadel made perhaps a game-saving throw into the infield to hold the runner at third.
Hailey Sanders did the rest, as she struck out Driscoll to send the Falcons, the reigning Class 2A champions, back to state for the second consecutive season.
“My curveball (worked) and I threw a few changeups in there,” Hailey Sanders said. “You don’t see that much because usually that’s not on but it was today.”
West Liberty earns school's first state trip
WEST LIBERTY, Iowa — Even before the Class 3A regional final started, it felt like something special was about to happen.
Or at least — judging by the size of the crowd — the community was ready for something special to possibly happen as it felt like the entire town was on hand to witness the game.
They did not leave disappointed.
The Comet softball team defeated Anamosa 7-2 to secure the school's first state tournament appearance in softball.
“The girls figured out — as we went through the season — how good they were,” West Liberty head coach Chad Libby said, “and it showed through this playoff run.”
West Liberty (28-5) will be the three seed at next week's state tournament in Fort Dodge. It plays seventh-ranked Treynor at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Comets wasted little time to give the crowd something to cheer about. Pitcher Isabelle True faced five Raider hitters in the top of the first, but second base was all the further either runner would make it.
In the bottom half, leadoff hitter Haylee Lehman reached first on an infield single.
After Anamosa recorded the first out, Austyn Crees drove a ball deep into the left-center gap for a triple that not only scored Lehman, but a throwing error to third allowed Crees to reach home as well.
Macy Akers and Janey Gingerich followed with hits before Isabel Morrison knocked Akers in to extend the Comets’ lead to 3-0.
“It was a huge stress reliever (to get the early lead)," Lehman said. "I think it helped with our emotions.”
The early lead set the tone for West Liberty.
True mowed down the Raider hitters. The second and third innings saw Anamosa (31-5) retired in order while the West Liberty offense kept chugging along.
True and Lehman would both reach to start the Comet second.
Both would end up scoring. Lehman also went on to drive in Ellen Carow as West Liberty extended the cushion to 7-1.
If the West Liberty players felt any pressure coming into the game, they certainly didn’t show it. They appeared as loose as any team could attempting to be the first team to go to state wearing their school’s uniform.
True continued to keep the Anamosa lineup in check. Anamosa drew three walks and scattered five hits, leading to two runs, but at no point did the Comet lead feel like it was in jeopardy.
Wapello rallies past Pekin
Wapello High School third baseman Toni Bohlen had a game she would like to forget in a regional final loss to Louisa-Muscatine.
Almost a year to the date after Bohlen made multiple errors in the season-ending loss, she came up with a catch that may well go down in Wapello lore as the greatest play ever.
With her team clinging to a one-run lead and Pekin runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Bohlen leaped up and snared a hard smash off the bat of Pekin’s Sami Greiner to seal the Arrows’ 4-3 Class 2A regional final on Monday night at Pekin High School.
And with that, the celebration was on. For the first time in 20 years, Wapello is headed to the state tournament beginning July 22 at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. It will take on North Linn on Monday at 3 p.m.
“I just stuck my glove up,” Bohlen said. “I thought it was going over my head for a second, so I got my glove up and I got it.”
“I can’t describe how it feels,” first-year Wapello coach Ashley Hahnbaum said. “I knew offensively we were going to do something special. It took until the last inning, but we got it done.”
Wapello (17-12) trailed the entire game and was staring at a 3-1 deficit heading into the top of the seventh. Senior catcher Emma Reid started the rally by drawing a one-punt walk off Pekin relief pitcher Faith Goudy. Sammy Ewart followed with an infield single. Mady Reid followed with a grounder to second, but Greiner’s throw was wide, allowing Emma Reid to score was Ewart and Mady Reid advanced to second and third, respectively.
Cleanup hitter Serah Shafer, who had been 0-for-3, laced a single to center, scoring Mady Reid and Shafer to give the Arrows a 4-3 lead.
-- Matt Levins, Burlington Hawk Eye