OXFORD — For the 32nd time in the history of the Clear Creek Amana School District, the Clippers’ varsity softball team is heading to the state tournament.
CCA blasted their way through the regional tournament to earn their third consecutive appearance, and a chance at improving on last year’s fourth-place finish. Benton Community was the first victim, suffering a 15-0 loss in four innings on July 9. Next, Vinton-Shellsburg took a 15-2 pounding two days after a derecho roared through their towns.
That left the Lady Dutch from Pella as the sole obstacle between the Clippers and State. CCA hosted Pella Thursday, July 14, but took the “visitor” role.
The Clippers came out in the top of the first inning on fire and quickly built a 7-0 lead.
Lead-off hitter Fran Strub got the party going with a base hit and moved to second on a Mariah McKinnon single. Caitlin Wnek smacked an RBI double to score Strub and bring Clipper Nation to its feet. A sacrifice fly by Maliah Fligg brought McKinnon home for a 2-0 lead, and an RBI single by Tara Walls scored Wnek.
Pella Coach Krista DeMeulenaere held a brief conference in the circle, but Jazmyne Neely disrupted whatever plans the Lady Dutch had made by belting-out an RBI double. Mallory Madsen kept the momentum going with an RBI single-with an extra base; giving CCA a 5-0 lead with only one out. Mara Jones fired a rocket down the left field line, which sailed over the fence and landed atop the batting cages for her fifth homerun of the season. Jones’ homer also scored Neely for the 7-0 lead.
Pella regrouped quickly in the bottom of the inning, loading up the bases and scoring their only run on a sacrifice bunt.
Expectations were high that the Clippers would put more runs on the board in the second, but McKinnon, Wnek and Fligg went three-up, three down. In the third, Madsen bunted her way to first and stole second with two outs. Jones was walked, but both ladies were left stranded in the sun.
Strub singled in the fourth, stole second, made it to third on a Pella error; and came home on a McKinnon RBI single. The Clipper pitcher stole second and was driven home on an RBI single by Walls for a 9-1 advantage.
In the fifth, Jones singled and advanced on a sacrifice by Mallory Neubauer. Strub singled and the runners advanced on a McKinnon sacrifice bunt. Wnek stepped up to the plate with two outs and two on, and launched a two-RBI base hit. Wnek’s hit was almost the third out until the ball bounced out of the Pella outfielder’s glove.
The Lady Dutch tried one last rally in the bottom of the fifth as the lead-off batter walked, followed by a pair of singles to load the bases with one out. Two easy outs ended the game on the mercy rule as the Clippers swarmed Coach Jim White’s wife, Erin, who presented the team with the 2011 state qualifier banner.
Looking at the final score, Coach White said, “We hit, we get going, that’s what happens. You can tell they’re really enjoying this.” White attributed at least some of the team’s 40-2 record to their cohesion. “It’s a really close team.” He said every squad of his has been close, but this particular group of athletes is different. “This one’s really, really tight.”
The Clippers were set to face West Delaware (36-7) Tuesday, July 19, in the first round.