By ROGER THOMAS Courier correspondent
---- — WINTERSET — Taking on a ranked team is not easy, but playing them after a long bus ride on their field compounds the problem.
Fairfield (30-11) and seventh-ranked Winterset (32-8) battled for a spot in the Class 4A state softball tournament Tuesday night in Winterset. After jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the game’s first three innings, the Huskies went on to end the Trojan season with a 7-2 win in the Region 6 final.
Fairfield failed to score in the top of the first, but in the inning, Katie Anderson had the first of her two doubles.
The home team wasted little time showing why they were deserving of their No. 7 ranking. The first two hitters opened the game with back-to-back hits. Mackenzie Flattery made a nice running catch of a deep fly ball near the line in right for the first out and after a ground out, it looked like the Trojans might get out of the inning unscathed.
Chelsie Benshoof spoiled those hopes with a two-RBI single.
“Giving up early runs is always a negative way to start a game,” said Fairfield coach Bob Bradfield. “When it happens against a team that is favored to beat you, it is really tough to handle.”
Both teams went down in order in the second but that meant that the top of the Winterset line-up would be hitting again in the third.
After a lead-off walk, winning pitcher, Karly Olson, drove in the first run of the inning with a single. The walk was the only one issued by Trojan pitcher, Alli Deao, and the inning would stay alive, as the Huskies took advantage of the lone Trojan error. Kylie McDonald’s two-out single closed out the three-run inning.
The Trojans cut the lead to 5-1 with a run in the fourth. Kenady Waugh had a one-out double and a two-out double by Mackenzie McClure plated the first run.
“One of the keys was that they were able to bunch their hits to score runs,” said Bradfield. “The hit totals were nearly the same but their pitcher (Olson) really controlled our hitters for most of the game.”
The five Winterset runs already on the board would prove to be enough, but they greeted Trojan relief pitcher Haley Grundwald with two fourth-inning runs. Again, the Huskies bunched three hits and a sacrifice fly to score the runs.
“We made the switch with our pitchers because we wanted to give them a different look to keep them from getting too many good swings,” said Bradfield. “There is a little change of speed and different use of the change-up between Alli and Haley.”
After the fourth, Grunwald and her defense would blank Winterset in the fifth and sixth.
The Trojans wasted a lead-off single by Madison Roberts in the fifth but in the sixth, were able to use two hits to score the second and final run of the game. Anderson had her second double of the game to lead off the sixth. Mackenzie McClure’s two-out single scored the run.
Fairfield threatened in the seventh with two one-out base runners. Pinch hitter Kelsey Roberts drew a walk. Mackenzie Harwood followed with a single but the runners were left stranded.
“Winterset is definitely one of the top two or three teams we’ve played this summer,” added Bradfield. “We knew we’d have to be playing the best we have all summer to win. I think, as far as hitting goes, these last two games we’ve hit the ball really well and been solid otherwise.”
Fairfield (30-12), with only two seniors, will look to be in the same position next season. Hopefully with different results. No. 7 Winterset (33-8) will open the Class 4A State Softball Tournament on Tuesday afternoon facing defending 4A state champ, fifth-ranked Indianola (32-9) on Diamond 2 at 1:30 p.m.
Class 4A, Region 6 Final
Winterset 7, Fairfield 2*
FF 000 101 0 - 2 7 1
W 203 200 x - 7 9 0
Fairfield battery - Alli Deao (L, 16-7) (3IP, 5H, 5R, 4ER, K, BB) and Haley Grunwald (3IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER), Karley Williams catching.
2B - Katie Anderson 2, Kenady Waugh, Mackenzie McClure.
Hits - Anderson 2-for-4, Waugh 1-for-3, McClure 2-for-3, Madison Roberts 1-for-3, Mackenzie Harwood 1-for-2 .
RBI - McClure 2.
Runs - Anderson, Waugh.
Winterset battery - Karly Olson (W, 30-8) (7IP, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 7K, BB), Kylie McDonald catching.
Hits - Sammie Nicholson 2-for-3, Macy Johnson 1-for-3, K. K. Olson 2-for-2, Chelsie Benshoof 1-for-3, K. McDonald 1-for-3, Shae Olson 1-for-3, Alexa Clark 1-for-1.
RBI - Johnson, K. Olson 2, Benshoof 2, K. McDonald 2.
Runs - Nicholson 3, Johnson, Layken Gurwell, Savannah Marker, Erika Shahan.