Lady E’Hawks Advance To Semi-Finals
FORT DODGE – The quest to finish what they started a year ago began Monday night for Emmetsburg’s Lady E’Hawks with a 1-0 win over Riverside of Oakland. The victory moved Coach Travis Birkey and the Lady E’Hawks into the Class 2A Semi-finals tonight (Thursday) at 6 p.m. on Diamond Two of the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. Emmetsburg will face Bondurant-Farrar’s Blue Jays, who earned a 1-0 victory over Belmond-Klemme in their quarterfinal game Monday night.
It almost seemed ironic that the Lady E’Hawks earned their first-round win in a gentle shower on diamond two at the Rogers Complex Monday night, considering how rain shortened their appearance in the 2008 state tournament and forced Emmetsburg to settle for a seventh-place tie.
On Monday night, it was another outstanding pitching performance from Maddison Woodruff, who recorded her second straight shut-out in less than a week’s time, as she faced just 22 batters in seven innings, surrendered one walk, but struck out 15 of the Riverside batters she faced. Emmetsburg’s defense did the rest, making some great put outs to help earn the victory.
Offensively, it took a bit for the Lady E’Hawks to get started on Monday, After opening with three strikeouts by Woodruff, the Lady E’Hawks went down in order in their half of the first. Woodruff would strike out the next three batters in the top of the second, and the Lady E’Hawks got a hit from first baseman Morgan Vlasman, who pounded a double to left center in her return to action after injuring her ankle in the Regional final last week. Vlasman would be followed on base by designated hitter Frankie Schmidt with a single, putting the two runners in scoring position, but a strikeout would end the second inning, leaving the pair of runners on base.
Woodruff weaved magic again in the third, striking out Riverside’s seven-eight-nine hitters, and Emmetsburg came up to bat again, getting a single from Woodruff in her plate appearance, only to leave her courtesy runner, Alyson Berven, waiting at first base when the inning ended on a breath-taking catch by left fielder Anna Hildebrand, who ran down a foul fly ball by Alex Lock after slipping and then colliding hard with the fence along the third base line.
After seeing their entire lineup strike out, Riverside finally made contact with the ball in the top of the fourth inning, as leadoff hitter Skyler Stevens hit a sharp ball to Emmetsburg shortstop Nichole Hasbrouck, who quickly relayed the throw to Vlasman at first, who pulled the catch out with a huge split for the tag. Woodruff would get a strikeout and a bunt was fielded by Hasbrouck and relayed to second baseman Tiff Wollum, covering first, to end the at-bat.
Emmetsburg would come up to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, as right fielder Kendall Corley led off with a triple to the right center field fence. After a strikeout by Hasbrouck, Morgan Vlasman stepped up and belted a base hit that would bring Corley home for the first run of the contest. Frankie Schmidt would add a base hit, but Vlasman and Schmidt were stranded again when the inning ended, giving Emmetsburg the 1-0 lead.
Riverside would get their first base runner in the top of the fifth, as Kyle McCready drew a walk from Woodruff. McCready stole second and just missed a put out attempt by Hasbrouck, but would languish at second as Woodruff would collect two strikeouts and Corley would end the at bat with a catch in right center. The Lady E’Hawks would go down in order in the bottom of the fifth off some good defensive play by the Bulldogs as the mist gradually turned into a light shower.
Woodruff would collect a pair of strikeouts to start the sixth before third baseman Jenny Hoch picked up a bunt and threw to Vlasman at first for the third out. Holding on to their one-run lead, the Lady E’Hawks led off the sixth with Corley getting on base off an error at second base. However, the right fielder was left waiting at first when Emmetsburg went down in order to set up the final inning.
The rain continued to fall as Riverside stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh. The first batter hit an infield fly to Vlasman at first. Woodruff would field a one-hopper and throw to Vlasman at first for the second out before finishing out the game with a swinging strikeout to earn the win.
The shutout was the third for Woodruff in the post-season, and her seventh goose-egg game of the season. In addition, the shutout was the first at the state tournament since 2006, and Woodruff is the 43 rd pitcher to record the feat in state tournament history.
“”Our six and seven hitters carried us,” Birkey said on his team’s offensive effort Monday night. “It’s just something that happens. The bottom of order hits and it carries to the top next time. I think against St. Edmond last Wednesday night, our four through seven hitters scored eight of our 10 runs. That’s the neat thing about this team – these girls just pick each other up, so you never really know who’s going to be the hitter. “
Emmetsburg would finish the game with six hits, led by the double of Morgan Vlasman and her RBI single. Frankie Schmidt would add a pair of doubles, while Kendall Corley pounded out the big triple in the fourth inning and Woodruff added the base hit in the third inning.
The win improves Emmetsburg to 31-5 as they enter the semi-final tonight against the 34-3 Blue Jays. For Emmetsburg, an 18-game winning streak is on the line, as their last setback came in tournament action back on June 20 with a 3-2 loss to Class 3A Harlan. However, with Woodruff pitching at the top of her game and the Lady E’Hawks playing some of their best defense and offense, there is plenty of optimism, not only from the team, but also from the community and Lady E’Hawk fans.
‘“Maddie has worked so hard and has been throwing non-stop since last September,” Coach Birkey said. “I don’t know what else I can say about her – she throws hard. She was pumped up Monday night. I felt pretty comfortable leading 1-0, because she was in her comfort zone and they hadn’t been hitting her.”
For Woodruff, the zone is a good place. Currently, the junior has struck out 401 batters on the season, and has an ERA of .69, with 45 walks and a season mark of 29-4. As a team, Emmetsburg has surrendered just three earned runs in the 18-game streak, and no runs have been scored against the Lady E’Hawk defense in the post-season to this point.
But the season isn’t over just yet…at least not if the Lady E’Hawks have anything to say about it.