ALGONA - The ball sailed high in the air as Emmetsburg second baseman Whitney Kibbie raised her glove to the sky.
One could hear the crowd draw its collective breath as the ball fell towards Kibbie. The junior reached out, stumbled slightly and cradled the orb in her glove as cheers erupted and players celebrated to signal Emmetsburg's return to the Girls State Softball Tournament.
The game-ending pop fly catch gave Emmetsburg's Lady E-Hawks a 3-1 victory over upstart Lake Mills Monday night in the Class 2A Regional Final game at Algona.
Emmetsburg’s Lady E-Hawks won the Class 2A Regional Title Monday night in a 3-1 victory over Lake Mills at Algona. With the win came qualification for a berth in the 2012 Iowa State Softball Tournament next week in Fort Dodge. Displaying their State Qualification banner are, kneeling from left to Hannah Bird, Miranda Vlasman, Kaity Degen, Aly Berven, Faith Schmidt, Whitney Kibbie and Jacque Carlson. In back, from left are Hali Noll, Emily Bonnstetter, Assistant Coach John Kennedy, Bailee Garrelts, Alexa Naig, Ashton Connelly, Kendall Deitering, Katie Ruiz, Hannah Van Oosbree, Head Coach Travis Birkey, Michaela Rehm and Teegan Olson. The Lady E-Hawks open their state tourney run at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 16, against Des Moines Christian. --Dan Voigt photo
With the win, Emmetsburg returns to Fort Dodge on Monday, July 16, for a 3:30 p.m. matchup with Des Moines Christian in the Class 2A portion of the State Softball Tournament at Harlan Rogers Park. It is the first time Emmetsburg has returned to the State Tournament since a runner-up finish in 2009.
The last obstacle to the return to Fort Dodge faced the Lady E-Hawks on Monday evening at Bishop Garrigan Field in Algona. The Bulldogs of Lake Mills had earned their trip to the Regional final with a stunning rally and upset win over North Union on Friday night, propelled to the win by senior pitcher Josie Brackey.
With the Lady E-Hawks playing as the visitors, the first inning went quickly on Monday. A huge crowd watched Aly Berven, Kaity Degen and Faith Schmidt all strike out swinging against Brackey in the top of the first, but the favor was returned to the Bulldogs as Faith Schmidt tallied three swinging strikeouts in the bottom of the first on Lake Mills.
The second inning saw Jacque Carlson and Miranda Vlasman both struck out swinging, but Michaela Rehm found the range of Brackey and lifted a pitch to right field for a single. However, Rehm would be thrown out stealing second to end the at-bat.
In the bottom of the second, Schmidt would retire Lake Mills in order with three striketouts to continued the defensive battle.
Emmetsburg went down in order in the top of the third, as Hannah VanOosbree, Teegan Olson and Whitney Kibbie all went down swinging. Lake Mills would be retired in order as well, off a put out at first and a pair of strikeouts.
With both teams batting through their order once, the fourth inning began with Aly Berven jumping on a pitch for a base hit to short left field. Berven would steal second as Degen struck out and then stole third for the first Lady E-Hawk threat of the night, but a strike out by Schmidt and a put-out of Carlson at first left the baserunner stranded.
Lake Mills would lead off their half of the fourth with a base hit that dropped in behind short, but a strikeout would be followed by catcher Miranda Vlasman throwing to Berven at short to pick off the runner as she attempted to steal second. A strikeout would end the fourth as the scoreless battle continued.
The Lady E-Hawks opened the fifth inning with Miranda Vlasman striking out, but Michaela Rehm stepped up and hit her second single of the game. Rehm would steal second before VanOosbree struck out, and stole third base. A wild pitch on Teegan Olson's at-bat allowed Rehm to come home for the first score of the game before Olson blasted a double to the center field fence.
Whitney Kibbie would get on base off a shortstop's error as Olson moved to third, and Berven rapped out a single, but Olson would be thrown out at third, leaving Kibbie's pinch runner, Alexa Naig, and Berven stranded, but holding a 1-0 lead.
The lead would last long, as Josie Brackey took one of Schmidt's first pitches of the bottom of the fifth over the left center field fence for a solo home run to tie the game. The Emmetsburg defense quickly retired the Bulldogs in order off a put out and a pair of strike outs to end the fifth frame with the 1-1 tie.
In the top of the sixth, Kaity Degen got on base off a first baseman's error and stole second. A passed ball moved Degen to third before Faith Schmidt hit a single to score Degen. An error on Jacque Carlson's at-bat moved Schmidt's courtesy runner, Kendall Deitering to second and a single from Miranda Vlasman loaded the bases before a walk of Michaela Rehm brought Deitering home.
A fielders' choice play on Hannah VanOosbree's at-bat put pinch runner Katie Ruiz, running for Carlson, out at home to tally the first out, but a pair of strike outs on Teegan Olson and Whitney Kibbie would end the at-bat, leaving Vlasman, Rehm and flex player Emily Bonnstetter waiting on base.
Lake Mills would come up to bat in the bottom of the sixth and quickly went down one strikeout before drawing a walk, but another strikeout and a put-out at first on a bunt would end the inning with Emmetsburg holding a 3-1 advantage.
In the top of the seventh, Emmetsburg would go down in order, however, as Berven was put out on a bunt attempt and Degen and Schmidt would strike out swinging.
Now it was the defense's turn.
For a final time, Lake Mills stepped to the plate and leadoff batter Carlie Christianson got on base off an error on Schmidt, but a pair of strikeouts would follow to set up the final out. Right fielder Randi Dilly lifted a Schmidt pitch high into the sky towards second base, where Kibbie made the game ending catch to start the Lady E-Hawk celebration.
Faith Schmidt would earn the win, going the distance in the circle and facing 24 batters, allowing just one earned run off three hits, with one walk and 16 strikeouts.
Losing pitcher Josie Brackey also went seven frames, facing 30 Emmetsburg batters, but gave up three runs, two earned, off seven hits with one walk and 16 strikeouts.
Emmetsburg got two hits from Michaela Rehm, including an RBI, while Aly Berven added a pair of hits as well. Teegan Olson cranked out a double, while Faith Schmidt had an RBI?single and Miranda Vlasman added a base hit to the winning effort.