COLFAX — Alivia Haley had trouble sleeping Monday night after Colfax-Mingo clinched its first state tournament berth in 16 years.
She was up into the morning just trying to find any information about softball that she could find. It’s safe to say she’s excited about the Tigerhawks’ first trip to Fort Dodge since winning the Class 1A state title in 2001.
“I couldn’t go to bed Monday night. I was so excited,” Haley said. “It was a fun night. Playing at state will be a lot of fun.”
Haley is part of Colfax-Mingo’s first four batters in the lineup who have combined for 29 home runs, 153 RBIs, 167 runs, 55 doubles and 55 walks. That foursome is hitting .396 or better from the plate.
“There’s only so much you can do against our lineup,” Colfax-Mingo coach Bryan Poulter said. “I know Kee and Akron-Westfield have strong pitching, but I am excited to see those matchups if they happen. We have to get that first one first.”
The first one will be against No. 7 Westwood, which comes into the game winners of four straight and 11 of its last 12. The Rebels (29-10) will be the tournament’s No. 4 seed playing the fifth-seeded Tigerhawks (25-11).
Poulter describes Westwood as a team similar to No. 10 Murray, which Colfax-Mingo defeated 13-2 in the regional final on Monday.
“A lot of the information we have been given tells us that we are playing a team like Murray again,” Poulter said. “A team that is offensively based on small ball and stealing and getting runners on base.
“If you can keep that first batter off the base and get that first out, that will change what they want to do.”
Pitching against a Westwood lineup that is hitting .375 as a team is most likely going to be senior Amy Russell, who enters with a 17-4 record. She has an earned run average of 2.84 and 149 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Tigerhawks’ power lineup will try to produce runs against a sophomore pitcher. Katelyn Martian is expected to be the starter, but Sam Burkhart also has pitched nearly 80 innings.
Martian is 20-6 on the year with an ERA of 2.72. She has 116 strikeouts and 48 walks in 142 innings.
“They will move it around a lot, trying to get you to hit pitcher’s pitches instead of hitter’s pitches,” Poulter said. “When we are playing well, we are staying back and hitting our pitch and not chasing bad pitches. That will be crucial for us, too.”
No player on the rosters of either Colfax-Mingo or Westwood has played at the state tournament at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Poulter guided his only other state team to the title in 2001. He faced a current South Iowa Cedar League foe on his way to that trophy, beating Sigourney in the semifinals.
Sigourney (22-11) joins Colfax-Mingo again this season, but two other SICL teams also are there. No. 12 Belle Plaine (23-6) is back after placing sixth last year, and Montezuma (19-12).
“It gives us an idea of what we are facing when we get there,” Tigerhawk junior Rhiannon Haley said. “We may play them again and knowing we beat them before makes us more confident. As long as we have our offense and defense working together, we should be fine.”
The Tigerhawks lost to Sigourney in extra innings earlier this season. They swept Montezuma and downed Belle Plaine, 7-1, in early June.
The Tigerhawks also play a tough non-conference schedule. They have a win over Sargeant Bluff-Luton, which is in the 4A state tourney field. Colfax-Mingo has five wins over ranked teams. And six of its 11 losses have come against teams in 2A or bigger.
“Poulter definitely set us up to play tougher teams,” Colfax-Mingo junior Ries Wilson said. “We are now prepared to play the best because we played ranked teams in other classes, too. I think that will be an advantage for us.”
Wilson, Alivia Haley, Russell and Rhiannon Haley make up the first four batters in the Tigerhawks’ lineup.
Russell ranks first in 1A in home runs (14) and RBIs (60), fifth in batting average (.537) and 13th in on base percentage (.586).
Russell, Alivia Haley and Wilson are all tied for sixth in doubles with 15. Alivia Haley is batting .410 with a team-best 48 runs, Wilson is hitting .396 with three home runs, 47 runs and 15 steals and Rhiannon Haley has 10 homers, 50 RBIs and is batting .417.
And the success doesn’t stop there. Cunningham has four home runs as the fifth hitter and sophomore Mac Brown has a team-best 23 walks and 27 runs from the No. 6 position.
But between those six batters, only Brown has even been to state as a fan.
Russell is not concerned. She just plans on doing what she does best.
“I feel like I am really good with pressure, so being up there in that environment probably won’t have much of an effect on me,” Russell said. “I am just going to go play the game like I have played it my whole life.”
Colfax-Mingo comes into the tournament as more of an underdog than a favorite. Top-ranked Kee is the defending champion and No. 2 Akron-Westfield is the defending runner-up. Both teams have made playing at the state tournament a regularity in recent years.
“Coming out better than we came in would be great,” Wilson said. “Getting there is hard and being there is satisfying in a lot of ways, but I definitely want to represent the community and represent our school in a positive way. Winning that first game would be big for us.”
A win against Westwood in the quarterfinals would likely mean the Tigerhawks would get Kee (35-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday. Kee meets Montezuma in another quarterfinal at 11 a.m. Monday.
The other quarterfinal matchups are No. 2 Akron-Westfield (35-2) and Sigourney at 3 p.m. Monday and No. 6 Clarksville (27-2) and No. 12 Belle Plaine on 5 p.m. Monday.
A loss to Westwood in the opening game would give the Tigerhawks a quick turnaround for its run on the consolation side of the bracket. The loser between Colfax-Mingo and Westwood plays the loser of Montezuma and Kee at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Those teams will play again Wednesday no matter what the result is.
“I want to be better than the three other SICL teams,” Alivia Haley said. “I am hoping to win that first game. I don’t really want to have to get up and play at 9 a.m. the next morning.”
The Rebels are 3-4 against ranked teams this season. Two of those wins came against 1A No. 9 Woodbury Central.