In a softball rivalry that dates back three decades, Albia’s 2-1 victory over Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont in eight innings for a berth in the state tournament stands as one of the all-time great games.
The Rockets (14-9) came to Albia unranked and knowing the #1 ranked Lady Dees had beaten them in the first game of the season 3-1. They sent an eighth grader, Brooklyn Bettis, to the mound against a power-hitting Lady Dee team.
Albia (top-ranked in Class 3A) was defending its home turf with a fourth straight state tournament bid on the line. They sent five-year starter and four-year all-stater Jena Lawrence to the mound, holding a perfect 16-0 record and a microscopic ERA of 1.00.
That means if Albia can score more than one run, they’ve got a great chance at winning. As it turned out, the Lady Dees scored twice, once in the sixth and once in the eighth to earn their fourth straight trip to Fort Dodge.
The game didn’t start pretty for the Lady Dees. A team with a fielding average of .969, committed two errors in the first inning leading to the Rockets’ only run. Left-handed slap hitter, Madysen Wade, led off with a bouncer to third base that Jade Boland mishandled. With two out, clean-up hitter Faith Roberts hit another hot bouncer to Lauren Bayer who couldn’t get her glove on it. The speedy Wade rounded third and scored to make it 1-0.
Bettis took the mound with an 11-4 record and a remarkable 1.68 ERA. She had also pitched against the Albia JV in the first game of the season and was shelled in a 10-0 loss. Those JV days were long gone as the diminutive Bettis confounded Albia hitters with off speed pitches and balls high in the strike zone.
Abbey Griffin started things out right with a leadoff double, but Bettis retired Makenna Ross, Alex Beard and Jena Lawrence in order. She did the same in the second with easy grounders and a pop-up.
Lawrence and her defense righted the ship in the second and the Rockets managed just five more base runners the rest of the game. An error in the sixth got Whitney Klyn on board and eventually to second and two tough infield hits had runners at first and second in the seventh.
The Dees had all kinds of chances through seven, but couldn’t get the key hit. In the third, Ellie Spurgin reached on an error, and made it to third on a double by Ross, but Beard grounded to second base with runners at second and third. In the fourth, Danica Workman singled and Abbie Martin doubled to put runners at second and third, but Boland popped up to second base.
Spurgin was back on with a leadoff error in the fifth, but Bettis retired Griffin, Ross and Beard in order, stranding her at third.
In the sixth, Lawrence led off with a shot down the first base line. EBF’s right fielder Emma Lenox dove for the ball and injured her knee as Lawrence raced to third with a stand-up triple. Lexie Jones came on to run and scored when Bayer laced a single up the middle. With no outs, Bettis calmed down and forced three straight pop-ups to end the inning with the game tied at 1-1.
Lawrence struck out the first two in the seventh, gave up the two infield singles and struck out Eleanor Breon in the eight spot. Griffin walked with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Ross laid down a perfectly executed bunt single, to place runners at first and third, but Bettis managed to force pop-ups against Beard and Lawrence sending the game into extra innings.
The Rockets again came up with infield singles to get runners to first and second, but Lawrence managed a strikeout and forced Faith Roberts to pop up to Boland at third.
Albia entered the eighth with Bayer up and she responded with a single. Workman sacrificed her to second, Martin singled to move her to third and then with the EBF infield playing up, MacKenna Jones lofted a soft single over the head of the shortstop to drive in Bayer for the winning run.
“We just kept battling back,” said Coach Darren Hill. “We would get runners in scoring position with two outs and couldn’t get the hit. But they just kept battling, got more patient at the plate, and didn’t get down on themselves.
“You know, I didn’t have to pay to get into this game, but I’m pretty sure I’d pay twice to see a game like this,” he said.
Coach Dorpinghaus added, “We’re just not used to making errors, but the girls rallied around each other. We pretty much know that if we can manufacture a run or two with Jena on the mound we’re going to win.”