Heading Back To State Tourney
FORT DODGE – It didn’t take long for Emmetsburg’s Lady E’Hawks to set the tone of their game with Fort Dodge St. Edmonds on Wednesday night. Three big hits and a pair of runs in the top of the first inningwere a statement in Emmetsburg’s 10-0 shutout over the Gaels in the Class 2A Regional Final at Harland and Hazel Rogers Park.
While the win gives Coach Travis Birkey’s teams a mark of 30-5 on the season, it punches Emmetsburg’s ticket for a return trip to the Iowa Girls State Softball Tournament, and, perhaps more importantly, a chance to complete some unfinished business.
After qualifying for the state tourney last year, the Lady E’Hawks played two games, but because of heavy rains, the consolation placement rounds of the tournament were scuttled by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union in order to get the title games played. The Lady E’Hawks never got a chance to finish out their appearance, as their consolation games were among those eliminated by the rains, leaving the team with one thought in the ensuing months.
Now, the time has come to square the accounts from last year, and also set the record for this year’s team. Coincidentally, this year’s squad is comprised of nearly the same lineup as last year’s squad, with one or two exceptions.
“These girls have just worked so hard for so long, they truly deserve this opportunity,” Coach Birkey noted following Wednesday night’s win. “I’ve been coaching softball for seven years, and I have to admit I think I’m just as excited for these girls as they are, and its because they’ve truly earned this trip to state.”
Earning the trip to state required a meeting with the eighth-ranked Lady Gaels of Fort Dodge St. Edmond’s on Wednesday night, and the Lady E’Hawks gladly accepted the challenge. With a defense allowing a total of four hits in their previous three tournament games going into Wednesday’s game, Emmetsburg hadn’t allowed an opponent to score in any of their victories in Regional tourney play. In the wins, Emmetsburg had outscored their opponents 22-0, and had seen St. Edmonds in a game at the Storm Lake Classic back on July 3, when they’d defeated the Gaels 5-1. But, in that contest, neither the Lady E’Hawks nor the Gaels put their ace pitchers on the diamond.
So with the battle laid out on paper, all that remained was take to the diamond and play ball.
Emmetsburg led off as the visitors with a line drive by Woodruff for a quick out, but Jenny Hoch sent a triple to the right field fence, and came around to score off a double deep in left field by Alex Lock. Courtesy runner Allyson Berven took over for Lock and didn’t have long to wait as she came home off a double to the center field fence from Kendall Corley. However, Corley was left waiting when Nichole Hasbrouck hit a fly ball to center field and Morgan Vlasman was put out at first to end the at-bat.
St. Ed’s came up to bat in the bottom of the first and learned first-hand about the Emmetsburg defense. Woodruff struck out the first batter, and the defense tallied a quick put out and an infield fly to shortstop Hasbrouck to retire the Gaels.
With a 2-0 lead to start the second, Emmetsburg went down two outs as Frankie Schmidt lined out to first and Caitlin Wise was put out. Hillary Pico got on base off a shortstop’s error, but was stranded when Woodruff hit a fly ball to left to end the opportunity. The Lady E’Hawks gave back what they got, as Woodruff earned a strikeout and got defensive support to retire the Gaels in order a second time.
Jenny Hoch led off the third for the Lady E’Hawks getting on base off a shortstop’s error and got to second, but would go no further as the Gael defense made the next three outs. But, it was no better for St. Ed’s, as a put out was followed by a pair of strikeouts by Woodruff to end three innings with the Lady E’Hawks still holding a 2-0 advantage.
Leading off the fourth, Morgan Vlasman came up with a sharply hit grounder towards short for a base hit hat slammed off the fielder’s glove and rolled into the outfield. With Glassman at first, Schmidt issued a sacrifice bunt to move her teammate to second. Caitlin Wise sent a shot towards short that was caught and dropped by the shortstop for an error, but when Hillary Pico laid down a bunt, St. Ed’s pitcher Jordan Florey fielded the ball but made no play, giving Pico the hit.
However, as Glassman raced into third base, she twisted an ankle and was forced to leave the game, being replaced by Janna Hoch on the base and subsequently at first base.
With the based juiced and one out, a wild pitch to Madison Woodruff allowed Hoch to score her run before Woodruff would belt a single deep into left center field. As Wise and Pico held up at second and third, the center fielder threw for third, but the ball was off the mark and the two Lady Seahawks raced over the plate for a 5-0 advantage off the passed ball.
Woodruff would make some tracks of her own and get to third in the confusion, before being replaced by courtesy runner Jayme Pen rod. However, Pen rod would languish when Jenny Hoch and Alex Lock hit fly balls to end the at-bat.
St. Ed’s could do nothing in the bottom of the fourth, as Woodruff struck out the first batter and the defense came up with a put out and a fly ball catch by Wise in left field to end the inning.
With a 5-0 lead and some breathing room, the Lady Seahawks went down two quick outs in the top of the fifth, but Janna Hoch came up with a single in the gap, only to be left waiting at first when Schmidt was put out. Emmetsburg continued the defensive juggernaut, as Woodruff tallied her sixth strikeout and the defense got a putout and fly ball catch by Pico in center field to end the inning.
The Lady E’Hawks put some insurance on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth, when Caitlin Wise drew a leadoff walk. A fielders’ choice by Hillary Pico allowed the centerfield to get on base and Woodruff would load the bases off a shortstop’s error. A sacrifice fly to centerfield by Jenny Hoch allowed Wise to score her run before Alex Lock got on base off a fielders’ choice, which turned into a passed ball that allowed Pico and Jaymee Penrod, running for Woodruff, to come home. Allyson Berven, running for Lock, would wait at second, however, when Corley struck out and Hasbrouck was put out.
St. Edmonds’ couldn’t get anything to go their way in the bottom of the sixth, as a popup to first was followed by two strikeouts to end the inning.
With an 8-0 lead to start the final at-bat, Emmetsburg got the benefit of an error on Janna Hoch’s at bat and a fielders’ choice try for the force at second was dropped on Frankie Schmidt’s at bat, putting two Lady E’Hawks on the base paths. Caitlin Wise was walked to load the sacks before Hillary Pico struck out. With one out, Maddison Woodruff singled to bring both Hoch and Schmidt home, but Wise was gunned down at third on a throw for the second out before Jenny Hoch hit to first for the final out.
Now it was time for a final defensive stand as the Gaels tried to engineer something, anything in the bottom of the seventh, Shortstop Nichole Hasbrouck threw to Janna Hoch at first for the first out and Woodruff tallied a strikeout for the second out, but facing her counterpart, Florey, nicked the batter with a pitch to give St. Ed’s their first base runner of the contest. With a runner at first, the Gaels grew hopeful, only to see Woodruff sail three pitches over the plate for the strikeout to end the game and start the Emmetsburg celebration.
Maddison Woodruff had the ballgame in her glove all night, as she struck out 10 out of the 22 batters she faced in seven innings.
The Lady E’Hawks used the nine errors of the Gaels to supplement their offense, which was led by the two singles from Woodruff, along with the triple of Jenny Hoch, the doubles of Alex Lock and Kendall Corley and the singles from Morgan Vlasman, Janna Hoch and Hillary Pico. Out of Emmetsburg’s 10 runs, only five were earned in the contest.
“The girls were very focused on this game and they were certainly ready to play,” Birkey noted following the game. “We’ll take Thursday off, but we’ll be back on the diamond over the weekend to be ready for Monday’s game. This is what they’ve worked for, what they want, and I think they’ll be more than ready when game time comes.”