North Union softball’s dreams of a state championship are still alive after the #2 Warriors survived a state quarterfinal test in a 4-3 win over the #7 Louisa-Muscatine Falcons on Tuesday afternoon at the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
The Warriors had just enough early offense to help them withstand a late inning drought, and with the help of some critical baserunning errors by the Falcons, punched their ticket to Wednesday afternoon’s class 2A semifinal round.
Leading 4-2 in the sixth inning, the Warriors faced a jam, as the Falcons had runners at first and second base with just one out. Louisa-Muscatine senior McKenna Hohenadel blasted a drive over the head of North Union center fielder Naomi Jones, which could have resulted in extra bases and at least one RBI. However, Falcon senior Brynn Jeambey, the lead runner at second base, went back to second base to tag up, and got a very late break heading to third. Jeambey was just rounding third base by the time the ball returned to the infield, while trail runner Lily Fisher aggressively rounded second and was almost to third base at the same time Jeambey was just rounding the bag. Jeambey got caught in a rundown between third base and home plate and was tagged out by Warrior catcher Shelby Fraker, who then threw to third to nab Fisher, who was attempting to advance, completing a double play and wiping out a prime scoring chance for the Falcons.
North Union Head Coach Kim Price says the Warriors frequently work on rundown plays during practice, and that led to perfect execution on the sixth inning double play.
The Falcons committed a backbreaking error on the basepaths in the seventh inning as well. With North Union leading 4-3 with Falcon runners at first and second with two outs, Fraker blocked a pitch in the dirt, scrambled to retrieve it, and fired to first base, erasing Hannah Kissell, who had wandered too far off of the base and couldn’t get back in time, for the final out of the game.
Coach Price says Fraker made the perfect read on the play.
Prior to Kissell committing the game’s final out on the bases, the Falcons had rallied to score one run in the top of the seventh, and were threatening for more. McKenzie Kissell led off the inning with a double in the right center gap. Jersey Lessenger sent a groundball to shortstop Libby Stevens in the next at bat, but a low throw to first base skipped past Maggie Engelby, allowing Kissell to score and trim the Warrior margin to one run. Lessenger would advance to second base on a ball in the dirt, before sophomore Morgan Stecher grounded a ball to third base. Lessenger was caught in a rundown between second and third base, but dove back into second base safely, putting two runners on with nobody out. North Union then recorded back to back outs at third base on fielders choices before Fraker’s pickoff to end the game.
Before the late-inning drama, North Union built a 4-0 lead after three innings. Junior Emily Meyer blasted her eighth home run of the season, giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead in the first. North Union tacked on three in the third, as a passed ball scored Beadle for the first run of the frame, and sophomore Libby Stevens capped the scoring with a two run single, coming with two outs in the inning.
North Union would not record any more hits after the third, as Falcon senior Piper Brant pitched scoreless ball in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, working around at least one Warrior base runner each time.
Louisa-Muscatine scored one run in the fourth, helped by two Warrior errors in the inning, and added another one in the fifth, as Stecher delivered a RBI single with two outs.
The Warriors picked up their eleventh win in a row in spite of being outhit 9-4, and committing four errors on the afternoon. Meyer was largely able to work around the Falcon baserunners, as she faced traffic against her in six of the seven innings, but was able to strand nine Falcons on base. Meyer struck out just three Louisa-Muscatine batters in her seven innings of work, but did enough to pick up her state-leading 33rd win of the season.
According to Coach Price, the Warriors were on the opposite end of this situation last season.
Price says the attitude of the team was the key to getting through adversity.
North Union faces #6 Wilton on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30, after the Beavers upset undefeated Logan-Magnolia 7-4 in Tuesday’s class 2A quarterfinal action.