FORT DODGE, Iowa – Albia is in the thick of the Class 3A state championship race and the Lady Dees showed why Tuesday morning at the Iowa Girls High School State Softball Championships.
Albia’s 1-2 lead-off punch of senior Hannah Isley and sophomore Alex Beard combined to go 5-for-7 with five runs scored and six runs driven in as last year’s state runner-up overpowered seventh-seeded Spirit Lake 10-0 in five innings at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex.
“That batting order, they are the real deal and they can all hit up and down that lineup,” Spirit Lake coach Rachel Fisher said. “Definitely the top half of that order was pretty scary and that bottom half found a way to put it in play and get on base.”
Isley, who came into state hitting .471, went 3-for-4 as she consistently hit the ball hard scoring all three times she reached base. Beard hit a moon-shot well over the 200-foot sign in center field for a three-run homer in the second inning and followed that up with a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the fifth to bring in three more runs and end the game in the fifth inning.
“It felt so good and I haven’t hit one like that in a while,” said Beard of the homer, her seventh of the year. “It felt so good and I was just so happy to get some runs on board.”
Spirit Lake’s Karli Olson started the game well with a single to left field, but she was caught stealing on a strong throw from the catcher Beard. Izzy Backhaus led off the second with a single but was caught in a double play when Jordyn Hamm’s hard-hit ball to short was snagged dimming a possible big inning.
A lead-off walk in the top of the fourth to Kelsey Kannenberg was followed by another rocket off the bat of Hannah Poolman, but once again Albia was in the right spot at the right time. Lady Dees (32-4) first baseman Abbey Griffin snagged a ball that looked destined for the right field corner and tagged first base for the second double play of the game.
“I just felt things weren’t going our way,” Fisher said. “Albia is a great team and their pitcher throws pretty hard, but the scouting report we got from talking to other coaches was very accurate. I thought our hitters had pretty decent at-bats, especially Karli Olsen.”
Spirit Lake also had a chance in the fifth inning as a fielder’s choice, a walk and an intentional walk to Olsen loaded the bases, but Albia pitcher Jena Lawrence got the strikeout to end the threat.
“It seemed like every time we got runners on their pitcher stepped it up and we weren’t able to execute any runs across the plate,” Fisher said. “I told the girls after the game not to think about the score or get your heads down. We were in that game a lot close than the score said and if those balls get through, we get one more base hit, one more walk and we are going to push through a couple runs. That puts a little more pressure on them.”
After Beard’s blast in the second put the Lady Dees up 4-0 they added one more in the third and two in the fourth as Makenna Ross’ flyout sent two home before a runner was cut down at third to end the inning. A walk, a hit batter and an error loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth before Beard connected with another deep shot to the fence in right.
Lawrence held the Indians to four hits, walked four and struck out seven. Kannenberg gave up 10 hits, three walks and struck out one.
The Indians (28-8) reached state by beating Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 3-2 ending the Nighthawks’ run of three state tournament berths while sending Spirit Lake to Fort Dodge for the first time since 2014.
Spirit Lake will face Waterloo Columbus at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.