Lady Spartans take second`
FORT DODGE– One hit was not enough to win a championship.
The Solon Lady Spartans fell to No. 1-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes, 5-0, in the 4A softball championship Friday.
Solon’s powerful offense could muster only one hit against Dallas Center-Grimes pitcher Paige Lowary, and ended up toting the runner-up trophy off the Harlan Rogers Park diamond in Fort Dodge for the second time in three years.
It was the first shutout of the season for Solon.
The Spartans, ranked third in 4A, opened the tournament by rolling over rival Clear Creek Amana 15-4 Monday, July 21, and followed it with a 7-3 semifinal win over No. 4 Carlisle on Thursday, July 24.
But Solon’s powerful offense fell silent the next day in the title game against defending state champion Dallas Center-Grimes (DCG).
“They dominated. We got dominated in that game,” head coach Jim White said. “So give them credit, winning back-to-back titles, especially in 4A.” White said the class has been the toughest the past two years and added, “I know from experience trying to repeat is really difficult.”
Solon’s lone hit was a single down the right field line in the third inning by Holly Hinkel. The senior made it to second base but was gunned down at third after being caught between bases on an attempt to steal.
Three Spartans– Mallory Madsen (2), Ali Herdliska and Riley Ogden– managed to draw four walks from Lowary.
“She’s gotten a lot better,” White said of the Dallas Center-Grimes ace. “The other two times we’ve faced her (two years ago) we scored seven and 10 runs, so we came in fairly confident. She did a nice job.”
The Fillies scored in the top of the first, added two more in the fifth and put up one run each in the sixth and seventh innings. Three of the DCG runs came from solo home runs by Lexi Rosa, Tabi Taylor and Jackie Payton.
Emily Ira pitched the first six innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs while walking three and striking out nine. Hinkel relieved Ira for the seventh inning giving up two hits and one earned run.
“We made a lot of strides, especially toward the end of the season,” said White, who made his 15th state tournament appearance. “It’s disappointing to get to this level… the level we were playing at the last four to five games… and then to go out like this.”
It was the final performance for seniors Ogden, Madsen and Hinkel. White had praise for the trio.
“I was really worried about leadership coming into this year, and I didn’t know how they (the seniors) were gonna do,” said White. “But they were actually most of the reason we got tough. They got vocal toward the end of the season and tried to toughen the team up. So, nice job, nice job.”
It was a much more dramatic finish in the rain-delayed semifinal against Carlisle.
The Lady Spartans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Taylor Nearad singled to drive Madsen home, and then came home on a sacrifice fly by Ira.
The Wildcats responded in the third on two singles and two doubles, scoring three runs with two outs to take a 3-2 lead, but Nearad scored her second run thanks to a wild pitch to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
It remained tied until the bottom of the fifth.
Madsen doubled to lead off the inning, followed by another single from Nearad and a walk to Herdliska to load the bases for Ira, who launched a grand slam over the right field fence.
Solon had eight hits from Madsen (2), Nearad (3), Herdliska, Ira and Holly Hinkel.
Ira pitched all seven innings giving up six hits and three earned runs, walking two and striking out nine.
The Lady Spartans finished their season with a 39-3 record.
Nearad, Madsen and Ira were named to the 2014 Class 4A All-Tournament Team joining Taylor, Rachel Lowary and Allison O’Brien from DCG; Shyanne and Gabby Dubois from Carlisle; and Taylor Goode and Sidney Zepnak from Norwalk. Paige Lowary was named captain of the honorary team.