July 25, 2021

Belle Plaine spoils Hawks’ bid at another trip to state

L-S softball ends season at regional semifinals

SULLY — It wasn’t supposed to end this way for Lynnville-Sully’s softball team.

The Hawks’ eight seniors were hoping to play in one final state tournament. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go as planned.

Class 1A No. 10 Lynnville-Sully was limited to six hits and just one run during a 2-1 loss to Belle Plaine in 1A Region 5 semifinal action on Friday night.

And the careers of eight Hawks ended shy of playing in a third straight state tournament.

“It’s hard to see them go, especially this way,” L-S softball coach Stacey Alberts said. “A state appearance would have been a nice way for them to finish their careers.”

The start time for the postseason game was moved back one hour with the hopes of avoiding inclement weather. It rained off and on during warmups and before the game but remained mostly dry once the game began.

The Hawks (24-9) had their way with Belle Plaine junior Kiley Alcott on June 9 during an 11-3 win.

The Lady Plainsmen shifted to its ace pitcher in junior Breanna Cook for the postseason game. And Cook was up to the challenge against an L-S squad which averaged 7.4 runs per game and batted .356 as a team this summer.

“She hits the outside corner and spins it down and spins it out,” Alberts said. “She pitched well but also made a few defensive plays that kept us off the bases.”

The defensive plays were as key to her performance as the pitching. Cook allowed six hits and the run was unearned but she only struck out one, too, in seven innings.

The Lady Plainsmen (17-18) ended the bottom of the first inning with a double play and Cook stranded two runners in the sixth and seventh with her team in front by one run.

Five of the Hawks’ six hits came in the final three innings. Cook spun 1-2-3 frames in the third and fourth.

In the second, Caitlin Alberts was hit by a pitch with one out and then Lily Zylstra reached on an error after Caitlin Alberts stole second.

Cayler Noun Harder tied the game at 1-all following an RBI ground out to second base.

Cook (14-8) recorded 10 ground ball outs in all and five other outs came on pop ups in the infield. Belle Plaine also got the benefit of a few calls that went its way.

“Every play that could have gone their way, went their way,” Coach Alberts said. “Whether it was a bunt in the box that hits the batter and they call her safe or the first basemen being off the bag and they call us out or a ball that hits the third basemen but the shortstop throws us out. It was just one of those nights.”

Noun Harder singled with one out in the fifth and moved to second on a ground out, but the inning ended after a pop out to first.

With two outs in the sixth, Denali Conover and Laci Keen recorded back-to-back singles. But a pop out to second ended that threat.

In the seventh, Zylstra led off with a single and went to second on Aliya James’ one-out single. After a pop out to Cook in the circle, the game ended when Korinne Jansen crushed a line drive that was caught by the center fielder.

All six L-S hits were singles. Noun Harder had one hit and one RBI and Alberts was hit by a pitch and scored the team’s lone run. The other hits were collected by Reagan McFarland, Keen, Conover and James.

Conover took the tough-luck loss after allowing just three hits. Both of the runs scored against her were unearned and she fanned two and walked one in seven innings.

Alcott led off the second with a single and moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Conover got the next two batters but Alcott scored on a wild pitch to put Belle Plaine up 1-0.

The Lady Plainsmen went back in front with a second run in the top of the third. Abby Sieck had a lead-off single and her pinch runner Ella Grieder went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Grieder eventually scored on a two-out error.

“(Denali) struggled with her drop ball in the first inning so we had to go away from it the rest of the game,” Coach Alberts said. “She has a selection of pitches that we can call though. She settled in and did quite well after that.”

Notes: The Hawks’ large senior class included Conover, Jansen, Noun Harder, Keen, Caitlin Alberts, Megan Van Zante, Jaden Brand and Elizabeth Squires. Those eight seniors helped L-S softball to a 71-21 record over the past three seasons and the Hawks made the state tournament twice in that span. “They are a great group of kids. I genuinely enjoy them,” Coach Alberts said. “I think we’ve given each other a lot over the past four or five years.” … Cook’s earned run average dropped to 1.90 after the win, but Belle Plaine lost to No. 7 Sigourney, 6-3, in the regional final on Monday.