By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
---- — FORT DODGE — The Ottumwa softball team left 12 batters stranded in its 7-2 loss to Johnston Friday morning in the Class 5A semifinals in a game that took two days to complete because of some untimely weather.
The Dragons were able to secure a five-point victory, despite being outhit 11-10. The game was continued Friday with Johnston leading 3-0 with runners on first and second and one out in the top of the third inning. The lightning coupled with the rain that blanketed Harlan Rogers Park Thursday may have been a mixed blessing because when play was suspended, the Dragons had harnessed all the game’s momentum.
But the Bulldogs, and Mandi Moore in particular, came out looking re-invigorated by the unplanned respite the weather had bequeathed to them. After the Dragons successfully performed a double steal to start the continued game, Moore got Dragon Lauren Thilges to hit a ground ball to shortstop Kassidi Henderson. Henderson fielded the ball and fired a throw home to Beth Overturf, who applied the tag to Ellen Espeland for the second out of the inning. Moore followed this play by fanning Emma Monthei to end the inning.
Alexis Winn and Nicole Peyton both recorded hits for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the fourth, but Ottumwa was unable to get either base runner across home plate — a theme that would haunt the Bulldogs throughout. Ottumwa once again threatened to score in the fifth. Chelsea Griffiths got things rolling with a one-out ground ball single up the middle. After a Katie Sammons strikeout, Olivia Roark slapped a single to the left side of the infield and Sammy Garrett poked a ground ball single up the middle, loading the bases for Winn. Ottumwa, however, was once again unable to capitalize on a scoring opportunity, as Winn was called out on strikes.
Thilges jumpstarted the Dragons’ offense by cranking a triple over the head of Griffiths in right field in the top of the sixth. Moments later, Thilges was able to score on an RBI ground out by Monthei to second baseman Roark, upping Johnston’s lead to 4-0.
The Bulldogs were finally able to string some timely hits together and put some runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Overturf and Nicole Peyton started the inning by drawing consecutive walks. Then Henderson drove in Ashlyn Thompson, who was courtesy running for Overturf, with a line-drive single to right field that narrowed the gap to 4-1. A couple batters later, Katie Sammons, who had struck out in the previous two at bats, blasted a double to left field that drove in Chloe Davis and shaved the Dragons’ lead to 4-2.
Unfortunately, Johnston answered with a swift and emphatic riposte in the top of the seventh. The Dragons managed to tack on three more runs in an inning that was highlighted by a two-run double by Ellen Espeland. The Bulldogs made some noise in the bottom of the seventh — Overturf, Peyton and Garrett all recorded singles — but they were unable to put any more runs on the board, and the Dragons picked up the 7-2 victory.
”I know we are better than the game we played today, so it’s really hard that we lost,” Griffiths said.
Still, Ottumwa coach Frank Huston was glad his team had come out and played competitive.
”I’m proud of the fact coming back this morning, we gave ourselves a chance,” the veteran coach said. “We put 10 hits on an excellent pitcher, and we just couldn’t pull the trigger.”
The Bulldogs fell to Ankeny 7-3 in a game to decide third place at the tourney.
The game, however, was overshadowed by the fact that it was the last time Ottumwa’s nine seniors would all play together.
Coach Huston elected to get some of his younger players — such as Mallary Simmer and Sarah Wetrich — some state experience in the game. Moore started the game on hill for the Bulldogs.
Ottumwa jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Winn drove in Garrett with a bloop single. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ lead proved to be fleeting. The Hawkettes’ offense came out hot in the bottom of the fourth, as they ripped off five runs on four hits and a walk to go up 5-1. Ankeny added to its lead with runs in the top of the second and the top of the fourth to make it 7-1 Hawkettes.
Peyton singled home Sammons in the top of the fifth to narrow the gap to 7-2. Ottumwa showed signs it was going to mount a rally in the seventh. Winn led off the inning by blasting a single over the head of Hawkette centerfielder Cathlin Bingham. Two batters later, Sarah Wetrich kept the momentum going with a bloop single. Moments later, Sydney Strunk lined a single to centerfield that drove in Ashlyn Thompson, who was pinch running for Winn, to shave the Hawkettes’ lead to 7-3. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were not able to muster any more offense, and Ankeny picked up the victory.
Emotions flowed freely after the game as the nine seniors bid each other — and their younger teammates — adieu.
“I’ve grown up and played with them for so many years, and it’s a hard deal to have to leave them all,” Peyton said. “We’re so comfortable around each other. We fit together and play well.”
After the girls shed tears, shared hugs and engaged in their last team chants, the seniors trapped Huston in a group hug.
“I won’t have another coach like him,” Sydney Strunk said in a choked-up voice.
“Throughout the years, we’ve had great groups of seniors. This was one of my favorites,” Huston said. “They were good players, they were good players and they were very enjoyable to be around. It’s nice to see them succeed on the field, and I’m sure they are going to succeed in their given careers.”
Ottumwa finished the season at 37-8.
STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
Class 5A Semifinals
Johnston 7, Ottumwa 2
John 003 001 3 — 7 101
Ottu 000 002 0 — 2 11 1
Johnston battery — Haylee Towers (W, 21-5) (7IP, 11 H, 2R, 2ER, 4K, 2BB), Addy Pender catching.
2B — Ellen Espeland.
3B — Lauren Thilges.
Hits — Bernadette Lewis 1-for-4, Ellen Espeland 3-for-4, Haylee Towers 1-for-3, Hannah Berger 1-for-2, Brooke Wilmes 1-for-3, Stanzy Snyder 2-for-4, Thilges 1-for-3.
RBI — Wilmes, Berger, Emma Monthei, Espeland 2.
Runs — Mercedes Worsfold, Wilmes 2, Snyder, Brooke Standstoe, Thilges.
Ottumwa battery — Mandi Moore (L, 20-6) (7IP, 10H, 7R, 7ER, 7K, 4BB), Beth Overturf catching.
2B — Katie Sammons.
Hits — Alexis Winn 2-for-4, Nicole Peyton 2-for-3, Chelsea Griffiths 1-for-3, Sammons 1-for-4, Olivia Roark 1-for-4, Kassidi Henderson 1-for-4, Overturf 1-for-3, Sammy Garrett 2-for-4.
RBI — Sammons, Henderson.
Runs — Ashlyn Thompson, Henderson.
Class 5A Consolation Final
Ankeny 7, Ottumwa 3
Ottu 100 000 0 — 3 9 1
Anke 510 100 0 — 7 7 5
Ottumwa battery — Mandi Moore (L, 20-7) (1IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 1K, 1BB), Megan Robertson (3IP, 2H, 2R, 1ER, 1K) and Brittni Vogt (2IP,1H 1K, 1BB), Alexis Winn catching.
Hits — Olivia Roark 2-for-4, Winn 3-for-4, Nicole Peyton 3-for-3, Sydney Strunk 2-for-4.
RBI — Peyton, Winn, Strunk.
Runs — Katie Sammons, Garrett, Ashlyn Thompson.
Ankeny battery — Serena Blank (W, 13-2) (6IP, 9H, 3R, 3ER, 1K), Kendyl Lindeman catching.
Hits — Kendyl Lindeman 1-for-3, Cathlin Bingham 2-for-3, Emilee Dorpinghaus 2-for-3, Ashlie Chambers 1-for-4, Olivia Parker 1-for-3, Carolyn Baumhover 1-for-3.
RBI — Chambers, Taylor Steinfeldt, Olivia Parker.
Runs — Olivia Brooks 2, Emilee Dorpinghaus, Ashlie Chambers, Bailey Ballard, Olivia Parker, Cathlin Bingham