Going into a state tournament of any sort, the customary wisdom is that every team on the field has a chance to win it all. But in Monday’s first round of the Class 3A tournament in Fort Dodge, the people who pair teams clearly got it right. Top-ranked and #1 seed Albia crushed #8 seed Creston (13-6) 12-0 in four innings behind a hitting barrage Lady Dee fans haven’t seen all year and a pitching performance by Jena Lawrence that was just short of sensational.
The visiting Panthers started with leadoff hitter Sara Keeler, whose .613 batting average puts fear into the heart of any defense. And she produced a single that dropped just in front of a diving Danica Workman in centerfield. Lawrence struck out the number two and three hitters, walked the clean-up and struck out Emma Hanson in the #5 spot.
After that, Creston got two other hitters on board, Keeler again in the third on a throwing error by Jade Boland and a bunt single. Lawrence struck out the last three out of four batters. She ended up with 10 strikeouts in four innings.
Albia’s hitting had been spotty over the past few games and had scouts looked at the Dees’ three regional tournament games they may have shrugged and asked, “What’s the big deal?” In fact, the Dees came in with one of the lowest team batting averages in the Class 3A tournament. What the stats don’t show is the 10 or so rated teams that threw great pitchers against the Dees.
Monday night, Albia produced positive results in every spot in the line-up. MacKenna Jones, who was batting eighth and had a pop-up in her first at bat, hit a deep sacrifice fly to score the 12th and winning run.
The Dees got off to a great start with Abbey Griffin lining a single on a 3-2 count. She stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice by Makenna Ross and scored on a one-out double by Lawrence.
In the second inning, Danica Workman led off with a single on a really tough change-up, stole second and reached third on a single by Abbie Martin. With one out, Ellie Spurgin, in the nine spot, drilled a two-run double to make the score 3-0. Griffin reached on an error, stole second and made it to third on a wild pitch, but Ross popped up to end the inning.
In the third, Alex Beard, who was mired in a four-game batting slump, lined a single into left field. Allie Major, running for Beard, was thrown out attempting to steal second, but Lawrence singled with one out. Lexie Jones came on to run and reached third on a single by Lauren Bayer. Then Workman one-hopped a pitch off the left centerfield fence to score Jones. With one down, Martin hit a sacrifice fly before M. Jones flew out to centerfield, giving Albia a 5-0 lead going into the fourth.
The fourth inning was a slaughter but not in terms of simply power hitting. The team showed they could play small ball. Spurgin led off with a single, Griffin reached on a bunt single, Ross reached on a bunt single and then Beard slammed a two-run double.
Lawrence singled to score Allie Major running for Beard and Bayer drilled a double scoring two more. Workman doubled again to make it 11-0 before MacKenna Jones hit the game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Workman led the team with three hits including two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI. Bayer had two hits including a double, scored a run and had two RBI. Lawrence had three hits including a double and two RBI. Beard had a single, a double and two RBI.
Griffin had two hits and scored twice. Martin had an RBI single and an RBI sacrifice fly. Spurgin had a two run double and singled and scored. Lexie Jones scored twice, Allie Major scored twice and Ashley Beary scored.
“It was big to get started with Abbey’s hit and run in the first,” said Coach Darren Hill. “And then Jena was dominant on the mound. But we had big hits in critical places all night. Lauren, Danica and Bean were just teeing off on Creston pitching. Abbie Martin’s sacrifice fly that scored a run was big and so was Ellie’s hitting in the number nine spot.”
Coach Jani Dorpinghaus added, “We worked really hard in the last week on our hitting and it paid off.”
The Dees (20-1) meet Mount Vernon (21-4), a 7-3 winner over Humboldt on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.