SULLY — One pitch, one at-bat, one batter, one inning and one game at a time.
It’s simple. It’s Lynnville-Sully Hawk softball. And it works well.
“The girls have been focused on Tuesday’s game. They are not looking ahead. We’ve had a good week of practice,” Lynnville-Sully head coach Stacey Alberts said. “The great part about this team is they are great kids, who get along well together. They love to play softball and they have fun on the field. They build off each other, and that’s fun to see.”
The second-ranked Hawks go into this week’s 2014 Iowa Class 1A State Softball Tournament the same way they’ve played all season. Lynnville-Sully (34-1) plays Kee (32-8) in the opening round at 1 p.m. Tuesday on Mittera Field at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
The winner plays in the semifinals Thursday against the winner of the fourth-ranked AGWSR (27-6) versus 11th-ranked Marquette Catholic (34-6). Six of the top 11 ranked teams in Class 1A are in the eight-team bracket.
In the other side of the bracket is top-ranked and undefeated Akron-Westfield (35-0) which plays Glidden-Ralston (14-11) Tuesday. Fifth-ranked Wayne (27-6) takes on sixth-ranked Martendales-St. Marys (25-4).
The loser of Tuesday’s game drops into the consolation bracket. The consolation bracket games will all be played on Wednesday to determine fifth through eighth place at the state tournament.
The Class 1A semifinals are Thursday at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The third-place game is at 9:30 a.m. Friday while the championship game is at 10 a.m.
Lynnville-Sully claimed fifth at the 2013 state softball tournament. The Hawks are making their fourth state tournament appearance in five years. Alberts has been at the helm of the softball team for nine years.
“We don’t know much about (Kee) except what we see on paper. They are young in the pitching circle and it appears they like to swing away at the ball,” Alberts said. “Basically, we’re going in focused on playing our game — the game that got us this far this season.”
It’s going to be Hawks against Hawks Tuesday. Both teams have strong pitchers, but offensively, they play different styles — small ball versus power hitting.
Kee of Lansing, which is in the northeast corner of the state, is making its second trip to a state softball tournament in its history. The Hawks are under the direction of fourth-year coach Liz Hill. Kee began Hill’s tenure going 4-26 in 2010-11 and 0-25 in 2011-12. A year ago Kee turned the corner with a 15-14 season.
Kee’s starting pitchers are cousins to the head coach — Courtney Cooper, a freshman, and Kendra Cooper, who is an eighth-grader. Kendra Cooper is 20-4 pitching for the Kee Hawks with a 1.63 earned run average and Courtney Cooper is 12-5 with a 1.91 ERA. Kendra Cooper has 161 strikeouts and Courtney Cooper has 144 strikeouts.
The Coopers are the top home run hitters for Kee — Kendra with seven and Courtney with 6. Kee has 22 home runs as a team among its 111 extra-base hits this season. The Kee Hawks have 70 doubles and 19 triples.
Kee has six upperclassmen on its team with three senior and three juniors.
Lynnville-Sully is led by four starting seniors in left fielder Kristal Beyer, catcher Becca Vos, first baseman Shaylin Lukehart and second baseman Jade Van Rees. The driving force from the pitching circle is junior Madison Rasmusson, who is 64-6 as a starter the past two seasons for the Hawks.
“We’re strong throughout our batters. We have each others back, offensively and defensively,” Vos said about the key to success for the Lynnville-Sully team. “This is awesome to be going back to state again this year. We just have faith in each other.”
Defensively, Lynnville-Sully has held its opponents to 134 hits and 42 runs this season. The Hawks have made 44 fielding errors.
Rasmusson (34-1) goes into the state tournament with a 0.79 ERA over 196 innings pitched. She notched 174 strikeouts while issuing only 27 walks and hitting two batters.
“This is really exciting to help get this group of seniors back to state,” Rasmusson said. “I don’t want them to leave. I want to keep on playing ball with them so to go to state again with them is tremendous for me and for the team.”
Lynnville-Sully has a team batting average of .394 with 363 hits and scoring 351 runs. Sophomore Kasiah Ehresman, who hits second behind Rasmusson, has a team-leading .594 batting average and leads the team with 59 stolen bases in 62 attempts.
Rasmusson hits at a .500 clip with four home runs, eight triples and six doubles. She is 46-of-48 in stolen base attempts. Junior shortstop Shelby Davis, who came back from a knee injury suffered during volleyball season, has pounded out six home runs. Davis has driven in 48 runs and scored 42, hitting at .412.
“Going to state means a lot to me after missing six months of athletics with the knee injury. To come back and play softball with this team and go to state is fantastic,” said Davis, who is 28-of-28 stealing bases this season.
Van Rees is a .364 hitter with 21 RBIs and 24 runs scored, plus has 12 stolen bases. Lukehart has driven in 24 runs while scoring 33 this season, hitting .330. Junior center fielder Lysandra James is hitting .291 with two home runs.
“We have worked hard all year for this opportunity to go back to state. We’re ready,” Beyer said.
Freshman Brenna Lanser, who plays third base, hits at .301. Junior Riley Rockwell plays right field for Lynnville-Sully.
“We have a big community supporting us and it’s awesome to experience this again,” Lukehart said.
Lynnville-Sully is known for its small-ball play — singles, bunts for singles, slap hits, moving runners around to score, stealing bases.
“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.”
So, softball fans will see two contrasting styles in Tuesday’s state tournament opener between Lynnville-Sully and Kee. It will be small ball against power.