SULLY — Mallory Loftus was in the right spot at the right time Monday night. Lynnville-Sully’s senior third baseman gathered up the softball hit her way, stepped and threw across to sophomore first baseman Aliya James.
Celebration broke out as the Class 1A fourth-ranked Hawks had recorded the final out to win the Class 1A Region 6 championship on their home field. The Hawks shut out the New London Tigers 5-0 to punch their ticket to the 2020 Iowa High School Class 1A State Softball Tournament.
It’s a return trip for the Hawks, who were 1-1 in state tournament action in 2019. It is the seventh state tournament appearance in program history.
“Honestly, I didn’t know if we were going to get a senior season so I’m thankful we got to play,” Hawk senior left fielder Janelle Rozendaal said after the win. “Things worked out and we’re headed back to the state tournament.”
Junior second baseman Caitlin Alberts led the Hawk offense with two singles and a double. She drove in two runs including the first run of the game. Junior catcher Korinne Jansen had three base hits, scored a run and had an RBI.
“It’s awesome after going last year. That gives you more of a push to get back,” Loftus said. “We had a lot of returning starters this year. I felt like we have a really good defense this year and we got our bats going at the end of the season.”
Lynnville-Sully turned two doubles plays against New London. In the first inning, the Tigers had a base runner at first when junior shortstop Megan Van Zante snagged a line drive and threw to first base to complete the double play.
Up 5-0 going into the top of the seventh inning, a Hawk error allowed the Tigers’ Ashlyn McSorley to reach safely. Marah Hartrick hit the ball right back to junior pitcher Denali Conover. Conover turned and threw to second base then the ball was thrown to first for the double play.
Conover improved her pitching record to 17-2 with a two-hitter in the regional title game. Conover walked one and hit one batter. She struck out three.
“We had a really good season and I’m sure happy we get to go to state again. I get to go with two of my best friends,” senior designated player Kaleah Ehresman said as she smiled at Rozendaal and Loftus.
Lynnville-Sully produced a run in the first inning as Jansen led off with a single to center field. Ehresman used a sacrifice bunt to move Jansen to second base. With one out, Alberts singled and Jansen went from second to home on the play.
In the third frame, Alberts doubled to the left field corner followed by a single from Loftus, who advanced to second on a pitch. Conover delivered a one-out base hit and two runs scored.
It was Rozendaal doubling to the center right field fence to begin the Hawks’ sixth inning. Van Zante put down a sacrifice bunt followed by an RBI single by Jansen. With two gone, Alberts had an infield single and a throwing error allowed a run to score to push the Hawks’ lead to 5-0.
Junior center fielder Cayler Noun Harder, the hero of the Hawks’ 15-14, 12-inning semifinal victory on Friday, had a single in the game. Conover, Loftus and Ehresman each had a single.
“That was so stressful,” Rozendaal said of Friday’s win against Sigourney in 12 innings. “That was probably the longest game I’ve ever played and it felt so good when we won it.”
Lynnville-Sully (18-2) pulled the No. 4 seed in next week’s 1A state tournament. The Hawks play fifth-seeded Wayne (17-4) at 3:30 p.m. July 28 on the Iowa Central Field at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
“This means a lot to the kids and to me,” Lynnville-Sully head coach Stacey Alberts said. “All of us commend the state for trying to make this happen under these difficult times (coronavirus). I hate to see kids miss out on an opportunity to compete.
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“I’m extremely grateful they got to play. I’m proud of our kids. My heart is full,” added Alberts, who is in her 15th season leading the Hawk softball program.