The Ottumwa Courier

Sports

July 14, 2014

Fifth-ranked Rockets advance to state softball tourney

COLFAX — Sometimes it only takes one.

One swing. One run. One play. That’s all it takes sometimes to decide an entire team’s fate.

On Monday night, it was one player that decided which softball team was going to advance out of Region 6 to play in the Class 2A State Softball Tournament next week. Nataliah Hopkins, the ace senior pitcher for Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, almost single-handedly decided the regional title with not one, but two big home runs in the first three innings against No. 12 BCLUW.

Hopkins delivered her first home run of the postseason on a three-run shot to dead center, then added a two-run homer in the third that just stayed inside the foul pole in left. Those five runs would have been plenty for Hopkins to protect in the pitching circle as the Rocket senior allowed just one run on five hits in a 10-2 win for EBF, giving the Rockets their first trip to state in a decade.

Drawing the first at-bat of the game, the Rockets set up Hopkins by attacking a shaky BCLUW defense and sophomore starting pitcher Olivia Culloway immediately. Haegen Boyer reached on an error to start the game and Tasha Alexander drew a two-out walk, giving the Rockets an early scoring chance.

Hopkins capitalized on the chance, driving a Culloway pitch right into a wind that was blowing out. The extra carry allowed Hopkins’ drive to center to clear the fence 210 feet away by plenty, sending the Rockets dugout and fans down the left-field line into an early frenzy.

Hopkins pitched around some early trouble herself as BCLUW loaded the bases with back-to-back one-out hits and a walk in the second. After getting her third strikeout, Hopkins forced Comet catcher Kayla Fisher to ground into a force out to preserve a 3-0 EBF lead.

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