WALL?LAKE – There were tears and looks of resignation Thursday night as the Emmetsburg Lady E-Hawks had their season come to a close in a 9-8 Regional Tournament loss to IKM-Manning. The upset loss ended Emmetsburg’s hopes for a three-peat trip to the State Softball Tournament, and ended the season for Coach Travis Birkey’s Lady E-Hawks witha 29-4 mark.
“This wasn’t the way we wanted to see the season end,”?Birkey said in resignation following the loss. “These girls gave so much and have worked so hard. I feel badly for them, especially the eight seniors.”
The Regional final ended up being postponed from Wednesday night as a strong thunderstorm blew into Wall Lake at game time, leaving water standing on the diamond and almost continual lightning.
Returning to Wall Lake the next evening, the temperature was 15 degrees cooler and conditions were much more hospitable for softball.
Emmetsburg, playing as the home team, would draw first blood after a scoreless first inning. After retiring the Wolves of IKM-Manning in the top of the second, the Lady E-Hawks got a leadoff singe from Nichole Hasbrouck and a walk from Kendall Corley before a sac bunt by Janna Hoch scored Hasbrouck. Jenny Hoch drew a walk and Frankie Schmidt stepped up and belted a double to center field to score Corley and Hoch. Schmidt would come home off a passed ball on Maddison Woodruff’s at bat to give Emmetsburg a quick, 4-0 lead when the inning ended.
The two teams traded outs in the third frame, and in the fourth, IKM went down in order. Emmetsburg led off the fourth with a double from Janna Hoch, and Frankie Schmidt drew a walk with out before Hillary Pico knocked a single deep into right field. Hoch would come home to score and Schmidt would score off a passed ball once again to give Emmetsburg a 6-0 advantage to start the fifth inning.
But something happened in the fifth. The strike zone began to shrink at the plate and a pair of disputed calls on the bases gave IKM the momentum.
The Wolves would leadoff the fifth inning with Woodruff hitting a batter for a free base. A single would be followed by back-to-back errors on Emmetsburg that scored one run, and two passed balls would allow two more runs to come home before a pair of singles were added to the tally. IKM would be retired but only after pushing five runs over the plate to make a ballgame out of the affair.
But Emmetsburg didn’t strike their colors. Nichole Hasbrouck led off the bottom of the fifth with a booming single and worked her way around the bases off a pair of sacrifice bunts by Morgan Vlasman and Kendall Corley to score a run before the Lady E-Hawks were retired.
IKM?led off the sixth with a double, and then got a singled and two walks to tally another run to make the score 7-6 as the Lady E-Hawks came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
However, Emmetsburg couldn’t get a break in their half of the inning, as they were put down in order to set up the crucial seventh inning.
IKM-Manning led off the seventh inning with a strikeout, the tenth of the game by Woodruff, but still the strike zone became highly elusive for the hurler. A single would be followed by a walk and then a single that scored the game-tying run. A fly ball to Caitlin Wise at second got the second out for the defense, but another walk would load the bases, only to see two more walks bring in two more runs before Emmetsburg got the final out on a fly ball to left field.
Now trailing 9-7, Emmetsburg needed some magic in a big way. The at-bat began with Hillary Pico hitting a line shot to the second baseman for the first out.
But, Alex Lock, who had struggled at the plate earlier, drew a walk, and put courtesy runner Jayme Penrod on first base. Nichole Hasbrouck came up and earned a free pass off a walk and Morgan Vlasman would hit a quick base rap to load the sacks with one out.
Kendall Corley stepped to the plate and pounded out an RBI?single to bring Penrod over the plate, cutting the deficit to 9-8. With three speedsters on the bags and one out, the Lady E-Hawks had plenty of hope.
Designated Player Janna Hoch would strike out swinging for the second out, and Jenny Hoch would hit to the third baseman who made the throw to first in time to get Hoch at the bag, ending the Lady E-Hawks’ season in the shocking, one run loss.
The Lady E-Hawks quietly congratulated their opponents and walked to the outfield for a final post-game gathering.
Maddison Woodruff closed out an outstanding prep career by facing 39 batters in seven innings of work, giving up eight hits for nine runs, three earned, with seven walks and 10 strikeouts.
Emmetsburg got doubles from Frankie Schmidt and Janna Hoch, while Nichole Hasbrouck had two singles. Hillary Pico, Morgan Vlasman and Kendall Corley all added singles to the effort.