Three seniors celebrated as a trio then joined the rest of their Lynnville-Sully softball teammates on Monday night on their home field. All three personify the tradition of Hawk softball through the years under head coach Stacey Alberts.
Tough defense, solid pitching and utilize offensive tools — bunts, contact hitting and base running — to put pressure on opponents are trademarks of the Lynnville-Sully program. Even through this season’s unusual circumstances from the coronavirus pandemic resulting in a short season starting on June 15.
Seniors Kaleah Ehresman, Janelle Rozendaal and Mallory Loftus provide the leadership through examples which has the Hawks going to the 2020 Class 1A Iowa High School Girls’ State Softball Tournament. Rozendaal had her senior volleyball season cut short because of an injury which resulted in her missing all of the basketball season.
Then came COVID-19 which closed schools and canceled spring sports.
“Honestly, I didn’t know if we were going to get a senior season so I’m thankful we got to play,” Rozendaal said after the Hawks clinched a second straight trip to state on Monday night. “Things worked out.”
Lynnville-Sully beat New London 5-0 in Sully to punch its ticket to the state tournament next week in Fort Dodge. The Hawks were the top seed in the 1A Region 6 tournament and won three games at home to claim the No. 4 seed in the 2020 state tournament.
The Hawks (18-2) face fifth-seeded Wayne (17-4) at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the Iowa Central Field at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. In the final regular-season rankings, Lynnville-Sully was No. 4 and Wayne was No. 5.
Defending 1A state champion Collins-Maxwell (19-1) is the top seed of the tournament. The top-ranked Spartans play No. 8 seeded Newman Catholic (19-3) at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will play either Lynnville-Sully or Wayne in the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Newell-Fonda (18-2) is the No. 2 seed at state and plays seventh-seeded Lisbon (20-3). Third-seeded Clarksville (16-1) takes on No. 6 seeded Akron-Westfield (17-2). Those two quarterfinal games are at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Winners play in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Class 1A state championship game is at 7:30 p.m. on July 31 on the Kruger Field at Rogers Sports Complex. The 1A third-place game is at 6 p.m. July 31 on the Iowa Central Field. This is the 50th year of the state softball tournament being held at Rogers Sports Complex.
Alberts’ 15th season as head coach for Lynnville-Sully was much different than any other as teams had to not only contend with opponents on the field but with the health concerns of COVID-19. The Hawks prevailed on and off the ball diamond to qualify for state.
“I’m extremely grateful they got to play. I’m proud of our kids. My heart is full,” Alberts said on Monday night. “This means a lot to the kids and to me. 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.”
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.
“It’s awesome after going last year. That gives you more of a push to get back,” third-baseman 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.”
Ehresman plays her role as the designated hitter for the team, using her speed on the base paths. She beats out bunts for singles. She is 26-of-26 on stolen base attempts this season, which is third in Class 1A.
“It’s fun,” Ehresman said of her base stealing. “As a senior and being a leader, I had to step up this year to do what I can to help the team be successful. That was very important to me. As a team we work well together and we’re all best friends.”
Ehresman has 25 hits — 23 singles which leads the team — and has scored 28 runs. She has a .410 batting average and a .463 on-base percentage.
Working together is how the Hawks moved through the 2020 regular season and regional play. They will have to rely on that again next week in the state tournament.
The Hawks take on a tough Wayne team which has a team batting average of .377 led by sophomore Emily Jones with 40 hits, which includes eight doubles, one triple and five home runs. Jones is third in 1A for most hits for the season with a .548 batting average.
Jones and sophomore Maddy Wood each have 30 RBIs for the Falcons and Jones has scored 31 runs. She and senior Allie Wik have five home runs each.
The contest shapes up to be a good pitching duel between Lynnville-Sully junior Denali Conover and Wayne sophomore Sterling Berndt. The two have contrasting styles as Berndt is the Class 1A leader in strikeouts with 130 with a 1.24 Earned Run Average. Conover is tied for second among 1A pitchers with 17 victories with a 2.17 ERA.
“We work together well. Her job is to move the ball around so hitters don’t square it up and she does it very well,” Alberts said of Conover. “Denali is not going to come out of games with 10 strikeouts — that’s not our goal.
“Our goal is to have batters stay off balance and to put balls in play we can manage. Denali owns that role quite well which is why she’s effective for us. She puts us in positions where we have an opportunity to be successful.”
Conover has allowed 97 hits and 45 runs in 112 2/3 innings of work this season. She has issued 46 walks, hit three batters and racked up 58 strikeouts. The Hawks are second in Class 1A with only 22 errors working defensively behind Conover.
Junior Caitlin Alberts, who plays second base, is another pitcher for the Hawks. Alberts is Lynnville-Sully’s top hitter with a .491 BA and a .583 on-base percentage.
Alberts leads the Hawks with nine doubles among her 28 hits. She has a team-high 32 RBIs and has scored 21 runs.
Junior right fielder Laci Keen hits at a .426 clip with 26 hits, 24 RBIs and 10 runs scored. Conover has a .418 BA with 23 hits and 18 RBIs.
Also hitting over 400 is junior catcher Korinne Jansen at .407 and junior center fielder Cayler Noun Harder at 400. Jansen has driven in 16 runs and scored 26 runs while Noun Harder has 24 hits, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
Loftus has a .357 BA with 20 hits, 15 RBIs and 15 runs scored. Rozendaal hits at .253 with 10 hits, nine RBIs and 13 runs scored and junior shortstop Megan Van Zante is at .222 with 10 hits, four RBIs and nine runs scored. Sophomore Aliya James plays first base with four hits.
Lynnville-Sully is third among 1A teams in stolen bases. The Hawks are 90-of-91 in attempts for the season led by Ehresman and Jansen, who is 15-of-15. Sophomore Reagan McFarland is 14-of-15 on stolen base attempts as she has been in the role of a courtesy runner mainly this season.
Alberts has 10 stolen bases followed by Loftus with nine and Noun Harder with six.
Playing small ball with bunts and contact hits to move runners is all part of the Hawks’ plan to put pressure on defenses. They work on running the bases and taking advantage of anything a defense gives them. Lynnville-Sully also has hitters who can find gaps to the outfield.
“The more you can get kids to own what they are and to try to enhance what they are and not try to be what they are not the more they succeed,” Coach Alberts said. “We work hard on playing well defensively and not making mental errors.”
Other members of the Lynnville-Sully team are juniors Jaden Brand and Elizabeth Squires, sophomores Lily Zylstra and Kennedy Kesling and freshmen Makayla Tice, Kaprice Wearmouth and Abby Squires. The Hawks’ assistant coach is Shelby Newell.
All student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and fans are asked to follow all guidelines implemented by the IGHSAU, Iowa Department of Public Health, and Iowa Department of Education related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All spectators kindergarten and older must purchase a ticket. Children not yet in school will not require a ticket. Cost is $10 per session. Parking is available on-site at the facility at $10 per car.
Gates will open 60 minutes prior to the first game of each day. Fans will be allowed to leave and re-enter during the day, as long as they are wearing the proper wristband. Tickets will be available for purchase onsite at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
Fans are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when entering, exiting, and moving around Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
Bleachers immediately behind home plate on Kruger Field and Iowa Central Field will be restricted for IGHSAU and media use. Other bleachers throughout the complex will be marked for social distancing.
Fans are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. It is expected that fans will practice social distancing during their time at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
Fans are asked to follow the facility guidelines regarding restroom use. Information will be posted at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex
Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex is certified by the Iowa Department of Public Health and will offer select concession items during the tournament.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or email@example.com