The Algona Bulldogs were the Cinderella of the Class 3A state softball tournament, entering the tournament as the #8 seed with a 17-10 record. But they had avenged an 8-1 loss to Estherville in the first round of regional play with a 2-1 win and then avenged 4-1 and 7-0 losses to third-ranked Humboldt 4-2.
They clobbered Spirit Lake 8-3 to earn a berth at state and in the first round gave top-ranked Davenport Assumption all they wanted, losing 2-1.
The Albia Lady Dees were entering the game for seventh and eighth place with a disappointing 8-5 loss to Columbus Catholic. As it turned out, the Dees didn’t play their best in the early innings, played great as the game wore on and then lost by a run because of a time constraint, 5-4 in only six innings.
Algona had the top of their order coming to bat in the seventh and Albia was going to start with their number two hitter. Algona managed to break a 4-4 tie with a leadoff double against relief pitcher MacKenna Jones. A pair of singles plated the run. Rylee Leshen singled with two out in the bottom of the sixth and Ellie Spurgin walked, but Kennedy Schroeder hit sharply to second base and was thrown out, ending the game an inning ahead of time.
Algona came out swinging in the first inning, scoring three runs on three hits, a walk and an error. Starter Jena Lawrence left the game with one out on the scoreboard. Jones came in and recorded two strikeouts to get Albia out of the inning.
The Dees showed a lot more patience at the plate and Schroeder and Ross reached base on singles. But Algona centerfielder Ashlyn Young, a junior, became a thorn in the Dees’ side, making the first of several terrific catches and throwing out Schroeder after catching a sinking line drive hit by Alex Beard.
In a rare pitching mistake, Jones clunked the leadoff batter who was batting ninth and she scored on a double, giving Algona a 4-0 lead. That double careened off the fence and struck the nose of Spurgin who had to leave the game because of the blood rule. Taylor Colwell replaced her, but Spurgin later returned.
But the Dees responded. Jones singled and Allie Major, running for Jones, scored on a double hit by Rylee Leshen. Spurgin walked, but Young caught a deep fly ball hit by Schroeder to end the inning.
Jones was masterful on the mound in the third, striking out the side. She struck out the first two in the fourth and then Stacie Etcher, replacing Ross at first, made a nice play throwing to Abby Griffin for the third out. She struck out another in the fifth, gave up a walk, but Griffin bailed the team out with a couple of nice plays.
Meanwhile the Dees rallied. Griffin hit a tape measure home run with one out in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2. In the bottom of the fifth, Spurgin was robbed of a hit by centerfielder Young, but Schroeder singled, Etcher singled, and Beard reached on a fielder’s choice as Schroeder was thrown out at third. But Lawrence stepped to the plate and hit a two-run double to tie the game.
Did Albia lose the game to Algona or did the time rob them of an eventual victory? We’ll never know.
The Dees ended a brilliant season with a 27-6 record, a fourth straight conference title, a third straight regional title and a third straight state tournament berth. Alex Beard broke the school’s season average record batting .538. The record was held by first team all-state centerfielder Sydney Weldon, who hit .521.