OSKALOOSA — One team. One goal.
Lynnville-Sully’s Hawks were not going to be denied. They tried closing out Monday night’s Iowa Class 1A Region 5 championship game in the previous two innings, but H-L-V’s Warriors fought to stay alive.
Up 9-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Lynnville-Sully knew it had to score twice to end the game then and there. Senior second baseman Jade Van Rees singled to left field and was moved to second base by a sacrifice bunt from freshman third baseman Brenna Lanser.
Another sacrifice bunt by senior first baseman Shaylin Lukehart had Van Rees at third base. Kristal Beyer, senior left fielder, ripped an RBI single to center field and ended up at second on a throw home.
Beyer was the winning run.
“It was like a rerun of last year’s fifth-place game at state,” Beyer said following Monday’s game. “I scored that run too. When Lysandra (James) hit the ball, I was confident I was going to score.”
James, the Hawks’ junior center fielder, delivered the game-winning hit. She was mobbed by her teammates after Beyer went from second to home for the 11-1 victory in six innings.
Lynnville-Sully captured its second straight Class 1A Region 5 championship. The second-ranked Hawks punched their return ticket to Iowa Class 1A State Softball Tournament next week in Fort Dodge.
“We needed two runs that inning to finish it after they (H-L-V) scored in their at-bat. I knew we’d get it done and I knew I didn’t have to put my catcher’s gear back on,” said Becca Vos, Lynnville-Sully senior catcher. “We have that much faith in each other. This is awesome.”
Lynnville-Sully had three straight three-run innings from the second through the fourth to build up a 9-0 lead. In the fourth inning, the Hawks tried to close the game after scoring three runs, Lynnville-Sully head coach Stacey Alberts sent Lukehart home on a single by Beyer. Lukehart was tagged out at the plate to end the inning.
In the fifth, the Hawks had two on and one out. Vos hit into a inning-ending double play.
“One of the most powerful parts of our team is when we get runners in scoring position, we’re very, very good at getting runs across the plate. For us to have runners on with less than two outs and not score, is rare and it happened twice in this game,” Alberts said. “But these girls respond well to those situations and find a way to produce the runs we need.”
Alberts was referring to a tough first inning in Monday’s game. The Warriors’ leadoff batter, freshman Brooke Kuesel, doubled to the center field fence. She was at third with one out.
No worries. Lynnville-Sully ace Madison Rasmusson struck out the next two batters to end the scoring threat. Rasmusson, a junior, only gave up four hits in six innings, plus issued one walk and struck out six Warriors.
“This was not the first time we’ve been in a pickle during a game this season,” Alberts said. “The girls respond by going right back at the next batter or at the next pitch.”
The Hawks used three consecutive bunts by Rasmusson, sophomore Kasiah Ehresman and junior Shelby Davis to load the bases in the bottom of the first. They did not score a run as the Warriors recored to fielder’s choices at the plate and Emma Cheney struck out the next Hawk batter.
“It was still our game,” Rasmusson said. “We just refocused.”
Lynnville-Sully broke through in the second inning. Lukehart and Beyer had back-to-back singles. With Haley James and Makenzy Rozendaal, both freshman, on as courtesy runners, Lysandra James’ bunt single drove in the first run. Rasmusson connected for a two-run base hit to center field.
Lynnville-Sully worked around two base hits by the Warriors in the third inning. Rasmusson and the Hawks retired the Warriors in order in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Hawks did it again in the third. Vos drilled a single to right field and courtesy runner Haley Hood went to second on a wild pitch. Van Rees put down a bunt for a single and moved to second. Lukehart delivered a two-run single, then Lysandra James doubled to center field to drive in a run with two gone.
“Small ball is what we do. That is what makes us, us,” Van Rees said. “We have the speed and we run the bases well. This is so exciting. I had butterflies in my stomach when Kristal scored the last run. We’re headed back to state.”
Ehresman used a slap-hit single to open the fourth inning for Lynnville-Sully. Davis tripled to the left field fence to drive in a run, and scored on a single by Vos. With two gone, Lukehart hit a deep ball to center field for an RBI double.
H-L-V’s lone run came in the sixth inning. Sophomore Kate Schaefer hammered a Rasmusson offering deep over the left field fence for a solo home run. Rasmusson responded by coaxing three straight ground-outs.
“We had to shake off the nerves at the beginning. We were ready for this game, but we were nervous,” Lukehart said. “We’ve been waiting for this day since the beginning of the season.”
Lynnville-Sully’s other senior, Rachel Van Wyk, went in as a pinch runner in fifth inning.
The Hawks used a 19-hit attack to beat H-L-V for the third time this season. They had four players go 3-for-4 at the plate. Davis led the offense with two singles and a triple followed by Lukehart with two singles and a double.
Rasmusson and Ehresman each had three base hits while Lysandra James had a single and a double. Vos and Beyer each hit two singles. Van Rees had a single.
“A regional final is stressful. We were playing in front a much bigger and louder crowd tonight. Experience takes over in these situations,” Alberts said of her team. “We played like an experienced squad today. The girls responded to situations, the crowd and noise well.”
H-L-V’s four hits came off the bats of Schaefer and Kuesel. They each had a single to go with their home run and double, respectively.
Lynnville-Sully makes its fourth trip in five years to the 1A state tournament in Fort Dodge. The Hawks (34-1) play Kee (32-8) at 1 p.m. next Tuesday in the opening round.