FT. DODGE– Ballard had seven hits, but three of them were doozies.
The Ballard Bombers earned their name Friday, nailing three home runs, one of them a three-run shot to retake the lead, to defeat Solon’s Lady Spartans 5-4 Friday in the Class 3A title game at Ft. Dodge.
The three-run homer came in the bottom of the sixth inning after Solon had rallied to take the lead with some clutch two-out hitting by Casey Musgrave, Arran Weeces and Rylee Smith.
The Lady Spartans had trailed most of the championship game to No. 5 Ballard, but tied the game 2-2 in the sixth and took the lead with two more runs delivered by Weeces and Smith.
The 4-2 lead disappeared in the bottom of the inning when Ballard pitcher Kenzie Ihle nailed a Weeces pitch to deep center with two aboard for a 5-4 Bombers lead.
It was the third home run of the game for Ballard off Weeces, despite her 11 strikeouts.
Solon had a chance in the top of the seventh inning after Alyssa Rickels singled and Mel Breza walked. With two outs, Casey Musgrave hit an infield grounder which was bobbled, but a throw to the plate caught Rickels attempting to score, a foot away from a tie game.
Musgrave was 2-4 for the game, and along with Smith provided an offensive spark that was needed. Smith’s single in the fifth put her on base for Emily Bransky’s line drive double, giving the Lady Spartans their first run of the game.
Musgrave started the two-out rally in the sixth, singling in front of Alyssa Rickels, who reached on one of Ballard’s four errors. That set the plate for Weeces and Smith who also came up with hits. The rally was stopped when Smith was declared out on a dead ball foul as she crossed home.
The loss ended the Lady Spartans’ season with a record of 37-7, but the second place finish improved on last year’s winless appearance at the tournament.
Prior to 2011, Solon’s most recent state softball berth had been a loss to North Polk in the 2A championship game in 2008; the Lady Spartans were champs the year before.
This year, Solon entered the tournament with a No. 1 ranking and an opening round defeat of Waukon, 8-2, matching the Lady Spartans up with Estherville Lincoln Central in the semifinal last Thursday.
Solon struck first with a single run in the bottom of the first inning.
The Lady Spartans needed that first run.
It turned out to be the only one of the game.
Emily Bransky doubled off pitcher Kendall Bosch to begin Solon’s Class 3A semifinal and Alyssa Rickels singled the run home against the No. 5 Estherville Lincoln team, giving the Lady Spartans the 1-0 lead they would nurse the entire game.
The rest was a pitcher’s duel, with Weeces striking out five and scattering three hits in a 1-0 shut-out that landed the Lady Spartans in the 3A championship game for the first time. A leadoff walk in the third inning was Estherville Lincoln’s first baserunner, and the first hit off Weeces didn’t come until the fourth.
Estherville Lincoln stranded six runners, including two in the fifth inning with runners on second and third with only one out.
A lot of that was Weeces, but a lot was the defense backing her up.
Alyssa Rickels had two great plays to her credit, throwing out Christina Tendal at first from right field in the second inning and snagging a shallow slap with a diving grab in the fourth.
Hannah Turkal at catcher made two terrific stops in the fourth inning when Estherville had runners on first and second, taming one pitch in the dirt and tracking down another that was high. And Emily Bransky sprinting catch in center field ended the game.