When the seniors walked on the field against Davenport Assumption four years ago as freshmen in the Class 3A state championship game it was the first time they had seen the kind of pitching, hitting and defense it took to win a title. The Lady Dees lost 8-0.
Friday afternoon when seven senior starters and three other underclassmen who had seen one or two other state tournaments took the field against Williamsburg, there were no nerves, no wondering if they had what it takes to win a title. No panic when the Raiders had the tying run on board with no one out in the seventh inning.
All-tournament team captain Jena Lawrence fielded a bunt for the first out, struck out the next batter as the runner reached third, and senior Abbie Martin made a catch on a looping deep fly into right field look easy as she caught the final out that gave Albia a 1-0 victory and the first team state championship in school history.
The game was actually the perfect combination of old school pitching, defense and small ball, get the runner one more base, softball with a 217-foot home run by Lawrence that was all the difference in the game.
Williamsburg featured freshman pitcher Peyton Driscoll who came into the tournament with 169 strikeouts. She wasn’t a power pitcher like Albia’s Lawrence who entered with 162 strikeouts. Driscoll had pin-point control and a set of wicked off-speed pitches that had the free swinging Dees reaching for pitches and getting rung up looking as the ball dropped through the strike zone. Driscoll would wind up with nine strikeouts compared to eight for Lawrence. Driscoll gave up five hits and three walks. Lawrence gave up three hits and a walk.
Neither team committed an error and both defenses came up with sparkling plays in the infield and outfield.
Frankly, you couldn’t have scripted a better state championship game.
Lawrence struck out two of the first three with all-tournament shortstop Lauren Bayer throwing out another runner. In the second Abbey Griffin threw out the first out to Ross, Bayer threw out the second and Lawrence caught a pop to retire the side. In the third, Lawrence struck out two and Bayer caught a line drive.
Albia didn’t do a whole lot more in the first three innings. Griffin walked to lead off the inning, but was thrown out stealing. Bayer singled with one out in the second and moved to second on Workman’s sacrifice bunt and then Martin drew a two-out walk, but the two were left stranded.
Griffin had a one-out single in the third and Ross got her to second on a sacrifice, but Williamsburg’s right-fielder made an incredible catch on a ball hit just foul by Beard.
The Raiders got their first hit in the fourth, but the rally was snuffed out by a catch by Bayer and a strikeout by Lawrence. Lawrence led off Albia’s fourth and crushed a pitch over the centerfield fence to give Albia a 1-0 lead.
At that point, Driscoll’s off-speed pitches began to confound Albia hitters. She struck out six Lady Dees in the final three innings.
In the fifth inning Williamsburg started off with a walk, but Griffin took control on the right side throwing out two batters and Lawrence recorded her sixth strikeout. Spurgin cracked a one-out single to lead off the Albia fifth and Griffin moved her to second on a bunt sacrifice, but Ross went down swinging.
Williamburg’s leadoff hitter picked up a one-out single, but Workman caught a deep fly in centerfield and Lawrence struck out her seventh batter. In the bottom of the sixth, Beard walked but Allie Major was rubbed off second as Lawrence hit into a fielder’s choice. Driscoll ended her freshmen year with two strikeouts (against two all-tournament players, Bayer and Workman).
Raiders third baseman Holub ripped a single off Bayer’s glove and right thumb to reach first and the game was halted as coaches and trainers tended to Bayer. Her throwing hand was okay and Jill Holub got to second on a wild pitch and to third on a bunt sacrifice.
Facing a runner at third with just one out. Lawrence struck out her eighth batter, then Martin came up with the game-winning catch in right field.
Albia placed four players on the all-tournament team including seniors Lawrence and Beard, junior Workman and sophomore Bayer. Lawrence was named captain of the all-tournament team. She gave up one run in the entire state tournament, a solo homerun in the Mount Vernon game. She had six hits and four RBI including a home run.
Beard was hitless in her last game but scorched the field in her first two with five hits and two RBI. She also caught Lawrence flawlessly. Workman had four hits, four RBI and two stolen bases while playing perfectly in the outfield. Bayer had four hits and two RBI. She had six put outs against Mount Vernon and three more against Williamsburg.
The Lady Dees ended their COVID-19 shortened season with 22 wins against just one loss. On the way their earned their fourth straight conference championship and rose to the #1 ranking in Class 3A.