ALBIA — It’s understandable why Saydel chose to intentionally walk Alex Beard in the very first inning. With first base open, why pitch to one of the top 10 sluggers in the state this season?
Beard has a counter to argument, one that her Albia softball teammates spent the rest of the night backing up.
“If you’re going to walk me, you might as well walk our entire team,” Beard said. “I think it’s kind silly to just walk me. Our entire team is so strong at the plate. There’s not a bad hitter in our lineup.”
It’s hard to argue with results.
The Lady Dees followed up Beard’s intentional walk by scoring five runs on four hits with six batters reaching base after the free pass given to the junior catcher. Albia secured an 12-2 win in six innings over Saydel in the opening round of Class 3A regional high school softball tournament action Wednesday at the Monroe County Sports Complex.
“It’s honestly kind of sad when they walk her. We want Alex to get up there and hit us along,” said left fielder Abigail Martin after collecing two of Albia’s 15 hits, driving in four runs and scoring twice including the game-ending run on Kennedy Schroeder’s two-out single to left.
“I think it’s kind of funny when they walk Alex,” Lady Dee first baseman Makenna Ross added. “Anyone on our team is just as capable of hitting a home run. I’d love to see teams walk Alex and see Jena (Lawrence) or Mackenna (Jones) come up and hit a home run right after that.”
Ross got things going for Albia at the plate after Saydel put the first run on the board in the postseason opener. Back-to-back hits off Lawrence by Rylee Carney and Jade Olsen led to a run-scoring double steal in the top of the first inning.
“We’re always pretty confident at the plate,” Ross said. “There’s always a lot of confidence we’re going to come right back and score more.”
Schroeder, however, popped out on the first pitch from Olsen who followed up by delivering a pair of strikes to Ross. Instead of giving up a second quick out, Ross stood her ground fouling off pitches and working the pitch count before roping a double into left center field.
“When Kennedy doesn’t get on, it’s my job to be that hitter that leads us off with something,” Ross said. “I knew I had to get something in with the batters we have behind me.”
Saydel (14-15) chose to walk Beard, allowing Lawrence to even the score with an RBI double that got the five-run opening inning going. Jones drove in the go-ahead run on a ground out that resulted in an error, giving Martin a chance to bat with two outs instead of allowing the Eagles to minimize the opening inning damage.
“Coming up with two outs is really stressful,” Martin said. “I had a lot of confident at the plate, especially seeing how well everyone in front of me was hitting the ball.”
Martin collected the first of three straight two-out hits for the Lady Dees, opening a 4-1 lead with a two-run double. Eight of Albia’s nine batters collected at least one hit with five Albia hitters contributing at least one of the seven doubles hit by the Lady Dees.
“I feel like we’ve always hit the ball well. I don’t know if it’s any better or any worse than it was last year,” Martin said.
“I think one big difference last year was having Hannah Isley at the top of the batting order,” Ross added. “This year, Mackenna Jones stepped into the lineup and is doing just as well. Our lineup has always been solid. I’ve never had any doubt in us coming through.”
Albia (25-4) will host South Central Conference rival Clarke on Friday in the regional semifinals. The Lady Dees won both games over the Indians on the way to winning the SCC title, beating Clarke 17-8 in Albia and 9-0 last week in Osceola.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season,” Beard said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity. We have to come out and play our game.
“I’m happy about it. We’ve just got to beat them another time,” Martin added.