ALBIA — The Albia Lady Dees softball team did something they've never done in program history on Wednesday night.
Begin defense of a state championship.
Fifth-ranked Albia scored three times in the very first inning of postseason play on Wednesday night against South Central Conference rival Centerville at Lizzie Alexander Memorial Field. The Redettes, however, responded by nearly erasing the 3-0 lead in the third before Albia pulled away for good scoring five times in the bottom of the inning on the way to a 12-2 win in a Class 3A, Region 3 bracket that looks more like a South Central Conference tournament with four SCC teams left playing for one ticket to the state tournament.
"We were a little lackadaisical early in the game," Albia head softball coach Darren Hill said. "We had a conversation about our lack of focus in the dugout."
Makenna Jones put together another stellar pitching performance for the Lady Dees, notching 13 strikeouts while walking only two hitters. Albia claimed at least a share of the SCC title for the fourth straight season while Centerville finished the season winless in conference play.
After holding Centerville scoreless in the top of the first inning, Albia put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first when leadoff hitter Danica Workman reached on an error, stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Lauren Bayer. Following a walk to Aliya Myers, Sydney Hoskins singled in Bayer,before Myers scored on a deep sacrifice fly to left field by Lexi Jones, one of three runs driven in by the Albia sophomore.
Jones set down the first two Centerville hitters in the third inning on strikes before the Redettes suddenly came alive. Three hits and a walk allowed Centerville to pull within a single run of the Lady Dees with the tying and potential go-ahead runs stranded on base.
The Lady Dees awakened from the dead in the bottom of the third, hammering out five runs on five hits including a two-run home run blast by Jones that cleared the left field fence by a large margin. Albia would add a run in the bottom of the fourth as Myers deposited a line shot over the center field fence to put the fifth-ranked Lady Dees up 9-2.
Albia would score two more runs in the bottom of the fifth on three hits. Addison Halstead and Jones both singled while Workman, one of the mainstays of Albia's past four state qualifying teams, doubled to open an 11-2 lead.
The Lady Dees would end the game in the bottom of the sixth. Hoskins doubled in Bayer who opened the inning with a double off the fence in center, clinching a trip to the regional semifinals for Albia while bringing Centerville's tough season on the softball diamond to an end with a final record of 6-26.
Albia (20-6) won't be going anywhere for their second postseason contest, hosting another SCC rival on Friday as Clarke (15-11) visits the Monroe County Sports Complex. The SCC is assured of having a team that will qualify for state either Chariton or No. 8 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont facing either the Indians or fifth-ranked Lady Dees next Monday night in the 3A, Region 3 championship game.
"We need to get mentally focused," noted Hill. "We don't talk about winning, but about preparing one inning and one game at a time."