FORT DODGE — Lynnville-Sully's softball team shed plenty of happy tears at Iowa Central Field on Friday night.
The Hawks accomplished something that's never been done in the program's history during the Iowa High School State Softball Championships at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
Lynnville-Sully had never played in a state semifinal game before this season. And after a 10-0, five-inning win over Lisbon on Friday night, the Hawks brought home their first-ever third-place trophy.
"I would have been proud of them regardless," L-S coach Stacey Alberts said, "They are leaving a legacy for someone else to try to beat now. We talked to the girls before the game about how our job was to be the trailblazers and to set new goals for other girls who are coming up. Hopefully those girls want to be better than this team was. That's always the goal."
After struggling at the plate against one of the state's best pitchers in Collins-Maxwell's Mikayla Houge in Wednesday's semifinals, the fourth-ranked Hawks came out firing against No. 8 Lisbon.
Lynnville-Sully sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs in the opening frame and then added four more in the third to separate even further.
"We came out strong tonight. It's always good to get a lead and that helped us get more comfortable," said Mallory Loftus, who was one of three L-S seniors on this year's squad. "Finishing the season on a win was awesome, too."
Loftus made the all-tournament team for the Hawks. She was joined by junior teammate Korinne Jansen.
Loftus had two hits, one run and four RBIs against Lisbon. She also homered in the quarterfinal win over Wayne.
"Anytime you get that kid in big games, she plays bigger," Alberts said of Loftus. "I have had the luxury of coaching her for five years and she's done it time and time again. She did a great job all tournament long of putting the ball in play against every pitcher we faced."
The Hawks jumped on Lisbon starting pitcher Ryleigh Algood in the first inning.
Algood walked Jansen on four pitches and then Kaleah Ehresman reached on a bunt single. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch and then Caitlin Alberts walked to load the bases.
Loftus was swinging early in the count and she laced a three-run double to the fence in left-center field to put the Hawks (20-3) on the board.
An RBI groundout by Cayler Noun Harder and an RBI double by Laci Keen improved the lead to 5-0.
"It was extremely important to get a lead early. We didn't score in our last game so we wanted to start better today," Coach Alberts said. "It was nice to see us do it in the first inning, too."
L-S threatened again in the second against Allgood, this time putting runners on base with a pair of walks and a single. Jansen was caught stealing and a pair of groundouts helped the Lions (21-5) get out of the jam.
Lisbon wasn't so fortunate in the third. The Hawks sent eight batters to the dish in that frame and the big hit was a two-run single by Loftus.
Megan Van Zante had an RBI sacrifice fly and Jansen also had an RBI single in the inning.
"That gave us some breathing room against a quality team," Coach Alberts said. "Allgood struggled, but she's much better than what she showed in this game. We were laying off close pitches and took her deep into counts."
The Hawks ended the game early after plating their 10th run in the fourth inning. Denali Conover singled and her courtesy runner, Reagan McFarland, stole second and third before scoring on Van Zante's RBI sacrifice bunt.
That was plenty of run support for Conover, who got the win in the circle after allowing no runs on five hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
Conover allowed a two-out single in the first, a one-out single in the second and a two-out single in the third. She sat the Lions down in order in the fourth.
In the top of the fifth, Lisbon threatened with a one-out infield single and a double to the fence in left-center field. Conover got out of the jam after Cailtin Alberts made a diving catch at second base and Janelle Rozendaal snagged a fly ball in left field.
"Denali did better moving the ball around tonight," Coach Alberts said. "We struggled with that against Collins-Maxwell, but it was good to see her bounce back."
The Hawks have been to the state tournament seven times since 2010 under Alberts. Lisbon's coach, Bob Bunting, has coached the Lions for 51 years and has guided them to 1,217 wins and three state championships.
Ehresman, another Hawk senior, was 2-for-2 with two runs, two steals and one walk in the win.
Jansen finished with one hit, two walks, two runs and one RBI. In three state tournament games, Jansen collected four hits, six RBIs, a grand slam, three runs and two walks.
Caitlin Alberts drew three walks against Lisbon and was walked six times in Fort Dodge. Van Zante collected two RBIs without getting a hit and Rozendaal, the third senior, had one hit, one walk and one run scored.
The Hawks' three losses in 2020 came against 3A state champion Albia, 1A state runner-up Collins-Maxwell and 3A Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. EBF lost 2-1 to Albia in the regional final.
"We didn't think we'd even have a season," Loftus said. "So to just be able to finish our senior year strong was awesome."