FORT DODGE– Solon entered the state softball tournament last week ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. The Lady Spartans had lost two games the entire season, both of them to eventual 4A champion Dallas Center-Grimes.
High-powered offense? Check. Solon scored 404 runs on the year on 555 hits.
Unhittable pitching? Check. Opponents bat a measly .168 when facing a Lady Spartan on the mound.
Unfortunately, the tires came off the bus as it arrived in Fort Dodge. Solon was upset in the first round of the tournament by the unranked Washington Demons last Tuesday, 6-1. The Lady Spartans finished the 4A state softball tournament with a 1-2 record Wednesday, good for sixth place.
Solon defeated Waverly-Shell Rock 10-0 in five innings Wednesday in the consolation semifinal, then fell to Winterset 7-4 in the consolation final that evening.
A tough couple of days for a team that had been in the championship game a year before.
Against Washington, Solon’s hitting and pitching somehow went south in a hurry.
The Lady Spartans were held to five hits and a single run by Demon pitchers Ashley Rausch and Amber Linnenkamp. Meanwhile, the Washington offense was having no problem finding the ball. The Demons roughed up Solon ace Emily Ira for 10 hits in just over three innings. Holly Hinkel pitched two innings of relief, giving up two hits and a walk.
But by then, the Lady Spartans had lost opportunities to get back into the game.
Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Solon in the first inning thanks to a clutch bases-loaded two-out triple by Joni Erwin.
The Lady Spartans did respond with a run in the second when Ali Herdliska doubled to start the inning, stole third and came home on an Ira sacrifice.
And there were other chances to score– Solon stranded eight runners– but the Lady Spartans couldn’t string together the hits. Solon didn’t produce more than one hit in any single inning.
In the third inning, Alyssa Rickels reached on a fielder’s choice and Taylor Nearad walked. Both advanced on a wild pitch, but were stranded in scoring position.
In the sixth, Riley Ogden walked and advanced to third with two outs, but couldn’t make it home.
The Demons added a run in the bottom of the second inning and scored twice more in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Solon rebounded against Waverly-Shell Rock, scoring five runs in each of the first two innings for 10-0 victory in five innings.
The first inning featured doubles by Nearad and Kara Misel, and a two-run home run by Ogden.
That was enough for Waverly-Shell Rock to yank starting pitcher Mackenzie Lillibridge and replace her with Sara Demuth, who didn’t fare much better.
In the second, the Lady Spartans turned five hits and some Waverly-Shell Rock miscues to score five more runs. Mallory Madsen doubled to start the inning, followed by singles from Alyssa Rickels, Nearad, Herdliska and Ira.
Solon’s offense drummed up 12 hits, including four doubles, and five walks from the Waverly-Shell Rock pitchers.
For the Lady Spartans, Hinkel pitched five innings, allowing only a single hit, and that came with two outs in the fifth inning. She struck out four.
In the consolation final against Winterset, Solon fell behind 2-0 and couldn’t quite claw back. Winterset’s Savannah Marker homered with two out in the bottom of the first against Miranda Hochstetler to give Winterset the lead.
Emma Rickels’ single in the top of the second brought home Herdliska to cut the lead in half, but Winterset added a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third.
The Lady Spartans knotted the game in the top of the fifth, 3-3, when Alyssa Rickels, Nearad and Misel all connected with two-out hits.
But Winterset came back with three singles and a grand slam by Karly Olson to break the game back open in the bottom of the fifth.
Solon came back with a run in the top of the sixth when Ogden doubled and scored on an Ira single.
Hochstetler took the loss for Solon, giving up nine hits and seven earned runs. Hinkel pitched two innings in relief.
The Lady Spartans end their season with a record of 41-4.