FORT DODGE — In an unprecedented time, Lynnville-Sully’s Hawks made school history on Tuesday.
The Class 1A fourth-ranked Hawks beat the fifth-ranked Wayne Falcons 9-4 to record the school’s first ever quarterfinal victory at a state softball tournament.
That means the Hawks did not just “make it” to the 2020 Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Championships, they will place in the Class 1A tournament. This coming in a season that was in doubt until June because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m a very detail-oriented person so every minute of every day was something about softball preparing for this game. It was good to get it played and under our belts,” Lynnville-Sully head coach Stacey Alberts said. “It was great to see the girls execute the game plan today. I’m proud of how every one of them prepared and played today.”
Lynnville-Sully went into the tournament as the No. 4 seed and Wayne was No. 5. The winner would more than likely have to meet two-time defending 1A champion Collins-Maxwell in the semifinals. Top-ranked Collins-Maxwell got past No. 8 seeded Newman Catholic 5-2 on Tuesday.
The Hawks (19-2) take on the Spartans (20-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the Kruger Field at Harlan and Helen Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
“We’ve been talking all year that we were hoping for the opportunity to play Collins-Maxwell. We drew the No. 4 seed and if you want to get to the championship game, you have to get through No.1,” Alberts said.
“Obviously, they are very solid and you are going to have to play extremely well to beat them. I think we have the chemical makeup to do it. It’s about executing on a single day. We’ll see what we can do.”
The other semifinal on Wednesday will have seventh-seeded Lisbon (21-3) playing third-seeded Clarksville (17-1) at 7:30 p.m. Lisbon upended No. 2 seeded Newell-Fonda 3-0 and Clarksville outlasted No. 6 seeded Akron-Westfield 7-6 in eight innings on Tuesday.
Lynnville-Sully is known for playing small ball — bunts, base running, contact hits to move players around bases. The Hawks used a little power against the top strikeout pitcher in Class 1A to put runs up on the board.
The Hawks were down 1-0 when they came to bat for the first time Tuesday. Wayne sophomore Sterling Berndt, a left-handed pitcher, was in the circle and she retired the first two Hawk batters but then junior Caitlin Alberts drew a walk.
Senior Mallory Loftus delivered her second career home run — a two-run shot over the center field fence of the Iowa Central Field at Rogers Park. Loftus has hit home runs in back-to-back state tournaments as her first one came in 2019 during a consolation win for the Hawks.
“Yes, I’m thinking (state) brings that out in me,” Loftus said. “We’ve been working on outside pitches in the batting cages all week because she likes to go there and has good speed. I knew it was coming and when I saw that pitch, I hit it. It felt real good coming off my bat.”
Lynnville-Sully went to work again in the second inning as junior Cayler Noun Harder walked and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Janelle Rozendaal. Junior Megan Van Zante reached on a fielder’s choice as the Falcons tagged Noun Harder out at third. Van Zante went to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from junior Korrine Jansen.
“This is awesome. We’ve been working so hard for this,” Rozendaal said. “We’re known for our small ball but we worked in the offseason in making good contact and driving the ball. Today we capitalized on it.”
The Hawks were up 3-1 when they got a scare as the fourth inning got underway. Berndt hit a hard line drive right back at Hawk junior pitcher Denali Conover. The ball hit Conover in her right arm — her pitching arm.
“It hurts but I’ll be ready to go tomorrow,” Conover said after the game. Conover stayed in the game and pitched a complete game for the win.
Berndt was safe but the Hawks got the next two Falcons to ground out. Conover hit a batter then coaxed another groundout to get out of the inning.
Wayne did tie the game up at 3-3 with two runs in the fourth inning. Berndt worked around two base runners with no outs in the bottom of the inning, as she notched two of her four strikeouts of the game.
“We knew Sterling would be tough. She’s a lefty and throws hard with good control and command,” Alberts said. “Our girls did an excellent job of just not chasing those outside pitches and staying in our zone all through our lineup. That elevated them for success as the game went on.”
Conover and the Hawks retired the Falcons in order in the fifth.
Alberts walked and Loflin had a bunt single to start Lynnville-Sully’s fifth inning. Junior Laci Keen had a long at bat against Berndt and was walked to load the bases. Conover’s sacrifice fly brought in the go-ahead run.
Noun Harder drew another walk and Rozendaal drove in run with a base hit but Keen was out trying to score a second run on the play. The Hawks loaded the bases for the third time in the inning when sophomore Aliya James reached on a base-on-balls.
Jansen was just looking for a pitch to hit to drive in a run so she said. Jansen unloaded on a Berndt pitch and quickly deposited the ball over the center field fence for her first career grand slam. It was Jansen’s first home run of the season.
“I hadn’t hit one all year so I wasn’t up there looking for that. I was just trying to get a base hit,” Jansen said. “The difference in the game was we just had a better drive coming in to the game knowing we had never gotten past this round before.”
Senior Kaleah Ehresman, who normally bunts or slap hits to reach base, doubled to center field. That chased Berndt from the circle and sophomore Emily Jones came on in relief. Ehresman was tagged out trying to steal third base and was shaken up on the play.
But the damage was done as the Hawks used a six-run fifth to take command of the game, 9-3. They were aware of the Falcons’ power as Wayne had 16 home runs on the season. Coach Alberts said the team knew the Falcons hit the ball well and was ready defensively.
With one on in the top of the sixth for Wayne, Noun Harder hung onto a ball after catching it in left center field and colliding with teammate Reagan McFarland, a sophomore. Both stayed in the game and the Hawks worked around a two-on, one-out situation.
The Hawks went in order in the bottom of the sixth.
Mya Willey reached on a Hawk error to open the seventh inning for Wayne. With one out, Jones doubled then Camryn Jacobsen drove in the Falcon’s final run on a sacrifice fly. Allie Wilk grounded out to end the game.
“We got runners on base at the right times using small ball to advance runners and good contact hitting,” Loftus said. “It’s great to win this one because we’re guaranteed to place higher than we’ve ever had at a state tournament.”
Jansen had a single and a home run and drove in five runs for the Hawks. Loftus had two bunt singles and a home run with two RBIs. Rozendaal hit two singles and had an RBI.
Ehresman and Noun Harder each had a double. Alberts scored two runs while Van Zante, James and McFarland scored one run each.
Conover improved her pitching record to 18-1. She allowed eight hits, walked one, hit one batter and had one strikeout. Lynnville-Sully had two errors in the game.
“We’re looking forward to playing Collins-Maxwell. We’ve been preparing for them as well as Wayne the last week of practice,” Rozendaal said. “We’re ready.”
Berndt (12-4) took the loss for Wayne and was charged with nine runs on nine hits and eight walks in 4 2/3 innings. She struck out four to bring her strikeout season total to 194. Jones worked 1 1/3 innings in relief.
For Wayne (17-5), Jones had two doubles and Wilk had two singles. Berndt, Willey, Maddy Wood and Jaide Harvey each had a single.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535