By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sportswriter
---- — OTTUMWA – Although it wasn’t the last time the Ottumwa softball team’s nine seniors will grace Huston Field, that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs sweep of Des Moines East Monday was devoid of meaning – or history.
On a night that honored Ottumwa’s large senior class -- tied for the largest class ever in the softball program’s venerable history — The Bulldog used a successful combination of clutch hitting and tremendous pitching to defeat the Scarlets 7-1 and 10-2. Appropriately, the games were ornamented with important contributions from the Bulldogs’ large cast of seniors. In game one, after seniors Sammy Garrett and Olivia Roark had kicked off the bottom of the first inning with consecutive singles, senior Katie Sammons blasted a towering 3-RBI home run to right centerfield. The blast was Sammons’ 14th homer of the regular season, tying the all-time regular season record at Ottumwa.
“It really means a lot to me that I was able to do that my senior year,” Sammons said. “It’s definitely an accomplishment that I’ve been working toward this season.”
Several batters later, senior Sydney Strunk tattooed a single to right field that scored Chloe Davis. Also, Roark, in her second at bat of the inning, singled home Sammons to grow Ottumwa’s lead to 6-1.
Defensively, Mandi Moore was a dominant presence on the mound, as she imposed her will on the Scarlets. In her seven innings of work on the hill, Moore fanned an eye-opening 14 batters and, perhaps more importantly, only issued two walks.
Garrett drew a walk and went on to score on a Sammons sacrifice fly to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth, upping the Bulldogs lead to 7-1. Roark, whose hitting has peaked just in time for postseason, went 3-4 at the plate, Sammons drove in a team-high four RBI and Garrett singled and scored two runs.
Brittni Vogt turned in a brilliant, yet gritty performance on the hill in the nightcap.
“It means a lot to be able to go out and pitch like you practice,” Vogt said.
The senior pitcher had the Scarlets lunging for her trademark change-up pitch long before the ball reached the plate — but her other pitches also were keeping East’s players on their collective heels.
“Probably my outside pitch and curveball,” Vogt said when asked what pitches she thought worked best for her against the Scarlets. “The change-up is my main thing to get them off-balance.”
Vogt didn’t yield a hit to the Scarlets in the first five innings. But, even when she did get in trouble, Vogt was able to bear down and escape from the inning with relatively little damage done.
Offensively, the start of game two, in many respects, mirrored the the start of game one. Once again, Garrett and Roark led off the bottom of the first with a pair of hits — Garrett, a double, Roark, a bunt single. And, once again, Sammons would drive them both home, but this time Ottumwa’s slugger did it with a ground-ball single up the middle. In the bottom of the third, the Bulldogs would tack on two more runs. Roark and Sammons got the inning rolling with a pair of singles and Alexis Winn drove in Sammons with a shallow fly ball to left field. It appeared that Sammons left the base early, but the umpire made no call and the play was allowed to stand.
The Bulldogs tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the sixth and went on to pick up the 8-2 victory.
Garrett and Sammons went 2-4 at the plate and Roark went 2-2. For Ottumwa’s nine seniors — Roark, Sammons, Garrett, Beth Overturf, Chelsie Griffiths, Vogt, Nicole Peyton, Strunk and Moore — it was a fine Senior Night.
Ottumwa (34-6, 20-4) will play host to Burlington in the semifinals of the Class 5A, Region 7 tourney at 7 p.m. at Huston Field. If they beat the Grayhounds, they will play in the regional finals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Huston Field.
“I think we are definitely in the right frame of mind and we can definitely go out and win our game on Saturday,” Sammons said.