FORT DODGE — It took nine innings to do it, but the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers squeezed out a 6-5 win over the Hawks of West Delaware in the first round of the Class 3A State Softball Tournament.
Heat and humidity combined for a heat index north of 100 degrees as the teams assembled on diamond 2 of the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex. The Hawks turned up the heat in the bottom of the first inning with a two-RBI double and a 2-0 lead.
Fran Strub got the Clippers underway in the top of the third inning with a double fired down the left field line. Pitcher Mariah McKinnon made the sacrifice bunt to advance Strub, before Caitlin Wnek launched an RBI single to score Strub.
The Hawks put up a two-run homer in the fourth for a 4-1 lead, making the Clippers sweat even more.
Mallory Neubauer led off for CCA in the fifth with a fly-out to center field, bringing Strub back to the plate. Strub singled but picked up an extra base on a West Delaware error. McKinnon made a sacrifice advancing Strub and bringing up Wnek. Junior shortstop Wnek belted out a two-run homer to narrow the gap to 4-3. Tense moments came in West Delaware’s half of the inning as Tara Walls received an injury scrambling for the ball at home plate. However, the tough third baseman soon returned to her battle station.
Jazmyne Neely led-off in the sixth with a single and advanced on a Mallory Madsen bunt. Maria Hennes’ sacrifice bunt advanced the runners and an RBI sac bunt by Neubauer brought Neely home to tie the game. The Hawks put up a run in their half of the sixth. With the situation starting to slip away, Coach Jim White moved Maliah Fligg into the circle to replace McKinnon. Fligg’s tour of duty started off rough with loaded bases, but a vital out by Walls at third got her and the Clippers out of the inning down only one run.
Wnek slammed her second homer of the game to knot things back up at five-all.
“It was just amazing” Wnek said after the game. “It was just, ‘see the ball, hit the ball.’ I was looking for my pitch, it was right there, and I knew I could hit it.” The homer was her tenth of the season.
The Clippers loaded up the bases with Walls and Neely picking up base hits and Madsen hit by a pitch. Unfortunately, Mara Jones fly ball to center field was caught to end the inning. Both teams went three up, three down in the eighth. Wnek added a base hit in the ninth with a grounder to center field, but a double play got her at second base and Fligg at first. Walls then doubled to get on base. Neely brought Walls in for the winning run with an RBI double.
“It was a great game!” Wnek said.
“We knew this was going to be a heck of a game” Coach White said. He was nervous during the regional final the week before, and with the early deficit, this game was not any easier, “This is the most runs we’ve given up all season.” However, the ladies came through with flying colors.
“They did a nice job of not panicking.”
West Delaware moved to the consolation brackets with a 36-8 record while the Clippers advanced to Thursday’s semifinal against Dallas Center-Grimes.