AKRON, Iowa – It’s the last go around for a talented senior class on the Akron-Westfield softball team.
The four-member group of Danika Tindall, Ann Hedlund, Bailey Davis and Jessica Hansen will close out their careers the way they started, at the Iowa Girls State Softball Tournament.
The second-ranked Westerners enter Monday’s 3 p.m. Class 1A state quarterfinal against Sigourney at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge riding a 17-game winning streak.
It’s the fourth state tournament appearance in the five year careers for the senior quartet, who have played in the state title game each of their three previous appearances.
“It’s hard to explain how exciting it actually is,” said Tindall, the team leader with 46 RBIs. “We all have that feeling of pure joy and happiness because this is where we want to be, we wanted to end our careers at the state tournament.”
The six-time state champions are 35-2 this season, marking a fourth 30-win campaign for the senior class under 16-year veteran head coach Todd Colt.
“As seniors they have provided great leadership, they’re role models for our younger girls,” said Colt, who owns a 547-57 career record. “They’ve been starters or role players since eighth grade, so those four have had lots of hits, lots of runs scored and lots of putouts for us over their five year careers.”
Hedlund (18-1) and Davis (13-1) have shared most of the pitching duties this season and they give Colt plenty of depth in the circle. Whoever doesn’t pitch will most likely play first base.
Hedlund has throw all three regional games, wins over Harris-Lake Park, Le Mars Gehlen and Woodbury Central.
“With Bailey and Ann sharing most of the games pitching I feel like both of their arms are rested well because they have only pitched about half as much as most pitchers have thrown.
“I love having the decision who do I pitch today, because they both can put us in a situation to win the game.”
Hansen (.376) and Tindall (.452) play left and centerfield, respectively, while junior speedster Kiana Appley, the 1A tourney leader in average (.561) and runs scored (63) is in right field.
Appley, a left-handed hitter, bats second in the order behind another lefty, junior Brynn Van Eldik (.508), the shortstop.
Junior Danika Smith (.484), who moved from first base to catcher this season, is second on the team with 42 RBIs. Jaden Harris (.495), another left-handed hitter, is the second baseman while either junior Courtney Waterbury or freshman Alayna Mullinix will play third.
“We have a nice mixture of power and speed and we have some girls that are a little bit of both,” said Colt.
The Westerners led the entire state in runs scored this season with 409 and the team sports a .441 average. Defensively they have only allowed 27 earned runs in 37 games.
“The one thing that I have noticed as being key for us is our batting,” said Tindall. “When we make good choices at the plate and focus, our offense leads into our defense. So we end up making smart decisions and great plays in the field.”
The Westerners, led by Coach Colt, won the spring state golf title as softball starters Hedlund, Davis, and Smith were joined by reserves Autumn Bundy, Kayla Johnson and Mulinix on the winning squad.
Sigourney, meanwhile, is coming off a state title in track, led by the Barthelman sisters, who each won state titles in the hurdle events.
Autumn, a junior and the 100-meter hurdle state champ, is hitting .456 with 42 stolen bases, the most among 1A qualifiers. Sister Summer, the 400 hurdle state champ, has 30 steals and 31 RBIs.
“I think the track title trumps the golf title for what you need to be successful in softball,” said Colt. “We know that they have a lot of team speed and a lot of team power and we’re definitely going to respect both of those as they know how to utilize both.”
The Westerners have scored in double figures 13 times during the current win streak and the four-member senior class is 11-1 all-time at the state tournament.
“We have a lot of confidence right now, it is the end of the season and everything is meshing together as it should be,” said Tindall. “We know going into the state tournament our opponents are going to be very good, but that isn’t going to stop us from playing the game we know how to play and working hard to get that title.”