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Back to state

SOLON– It’s back to Ft. Dodge for the Lady Spartans.
Solon’s varsity softball team won a berth in the 2011 State Softball Tournament last week with wins over Marion and Mt. Vernon in regional postseason play.
The Lady Spartans (34-7) are scheduled to face Winterset (30-10) in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday, July 19 (subsequent to the publication of this edition), at Rogers Park in Ft. Dodge.
If Solon wins, the Lady Spartans advance to a Thursday semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Thursday; a loss sends them to the consolation bracket Wednesday at 12 p.m.
The 3A championship would be played Friday at 3 p.m., with the runner-up championship at 2 p.m.
Solon has been out of the tournament since a loss to North Polk in the 2A championship game in 2008; the Lady Spartans were champs the year before.
But the last two years have seen the softball team bow out during regional playoffs.
Not so this year.
The 2011 squad, under first year coach Ben Sorden, is playing loose and having fun, with just enough defense and offense to be a problem for any team they face.
“We just play softball and have fun doing it,” Sorden said after a 9-0 win over Marion in the regional semifinal last Monday. “If we play aggressively and with confidence our opponent has to beat us at our game.  I try to keep the girls relaxed and focused, that’s when they perform their best.  At the end of the day we want to leave the field knowing we gave our best effort and had fun doing it along the way.”
The semifinal against Marion was actually a close game until the top of the seventh, when Solon tacked seven extra runs to its existing 2-0 lead.
The Lady Spartans took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when a Casey Musgrave double brought Ali Herdliska home. Kara Misel scored later in the inning after her single and a squeeze by Mel Breza.
That cushion was all pitcher Arran Weeces would need, although Marion had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the fifth. Weeces struck out one batter and the next grounded out to Misel at third base to end the threat. Solon also benefitted from an alert play by catcher Rachel Stewart, who blocked a drop ball and prevent a run from scoring.
“Rachel is so good behind the plate I often take it for granted just how good she is,” Sorden noted.
Weeces struck out a total of 14 batters and allowed no hits while walking three.
Emily Bransky went 3-4 at the plate, while Alyssa Rickels added a double and two RBI. Breza ended up with three RBI, and Herdliska went 2-4 scoring twice.
Weeces struck out another 14 batters against Mt. Vernon in a 7-2 regional final win Wednesday.
This time, the Solon batters provided a little more of a cushion. The Lady Spartans went up 2-0 on a double-steal by Musgrave and Misel, and Musgrave scored moments later on a Breza double to left field.
Solon added another run in the second inning when courtesy runner Shelby Gunnells scored on a Rylee Smith sacrifice.
Seven different Lady Spartans scored during the game.