SOLON– The Lady Spartans are on a roll.
A 9-1 win Saturday night, July 13, at home against Central Clinton-DeWitt in a Class 4A regional semifinal gave Solon a 38-2 record and 14 consecutive wins.
The Spartans were the visiting team on the scoreboard and as the visitors, went to bat first. A five-run first inning gave Solon a cushion against the 25-16 Sabers.
“It was really big to get those runs right away,” head coach Jim White said. While DeWitt’s record wasn’t intimidating, one of their pitchers was. “The pitcher that pitched toward the end of the game (Katie Irwin) is outstanding. So we prepared for her. She throws really hard so they tried to throw us off with a different pitcher.”
Those five runs came off four hits from lead off batter Mallory Madsen (single), Taylor Nearad (RBI single), Kara Misel (RBI double) and Ali Herdliska (single). Alyssa Rickels reached second base on an error and scored Madsen; Nearad RBI’d Rickels and Misel drove Nearad home. Herdliska and Misel were able to capitalize on a series of miscues by DeWitt on a Riley Ogden bunt.
The Lady Spartans knocked off the first three batters for DeWitt with two Ks and a fly out.
“We played good defense after the first inning and our pitchers did a good job,” White said.
Despite the lead, White never considered the possibility of a short game. “That pitcher (Irwin) is really good, I think she’s one of the top 10 in the state,” White said. Irwin took over in the first inning with Solon up 3-0. “We were concerned with the pitcher, a lot, coming in,” White said. “And offensively they do a nice job. We just put the ball in play hard, and they didn’t play good defense.”
Irwin made it three up and three down for Solon in the second inning while Lady Spartan pitcher Emily Ira pressured the Sabers with two more strikeouts and a ground out. In the top of the third Misel reached on an error, Ogden singled and Emma Rickels knocked an RBI single to score Misel. Another Saber error brought in Ogden for a 7-0 lead.
The Sabers mounted a counter offensive in the bottom of the inning by batting in their only run of the night, but also threatening Solon with the bases loaded.
In the fifth, Ogden singled and scored on a double from Emma Rickels making it an 8-1 ballgame while an Alyssa Rickels sacrifice in the sixth scored Sydney Lawson, who doubled to get on base.
Ira had six strikeouts on the night and gave up the one run off of four hits. Holly Hinkel worked the seventh inning with one strikeout in a three-up, three-down effort.
The win moved the Lady Spartans to a regional final on Tuesday, July 16, at home against Maquoketa. The Cardinals defeated West Delaware Saturday night 4-3 in eight innings. Before the next opponent was known, White noted West Delaware’s pitching was much like Irwin’s and added, “If it’s the other one (Maquoketa) we’ll have to change gears quite a bit.” But that’s life in the postseason. “You just have to make your adjustments and go.”
The Lady Spartans ended the regular season on the road with a statement 6-2 win over Pleasant Valley, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A.
Solon took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and held it until Pleasant Valley tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Lady Spartans broke it open for four runs in the top of the seventh. Ali Herdliska hit a home run and had three RBI.
Miranda Hochstetler got the win in relief of Ira, who struck out seven.