BOYDEN - After three straight appearances at the state tournament, Estherville Lincoln Central's softball season came to an abrupt end Tuesday.
In a classic pitchers' duel, the Midgets and No. 7 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley were scoreless through 6 1/2 innings in a Class 3A first-round game.
But in the bottom of the seventh, the Nighthawks' Katie Greene sent the ball just over the head of ELC center fielder Carson Gjerde for a standup double. Alexis Mousel laid down the sacrifice bunt to move pinch runner Brianna Brandt to third base. BHRV coach Sara Friederichsen brought in a pinch hitter-eighth grader Kaitlyn Van Der Zwaag in place of No. 9 batter Kaitlyn Kerr Van Der Zwaag got a hold of a Liz Brashear pitch and sent it sharply through the left side of the field to bring home Brandt home for the game's lone run.
ELC third baseman Sarah Schacherer applies the tag on Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley’s Cassie Van Beek during the steal attempt in Boyden on Tuesday.
Photo by David Swartz
The win avengens the Nighthawks' (26-2) 6-5 loss to ELC last year in a Class 3A Region Final.
Despite the loss, the Midgets (15-15) had a good defensive game as well as opportunities to score.
"The girls were focused in all night and played every inning," said ELC coach Megan Anderson. "The effort was there."
ELC catcher Caitlyn Clayton picked off two runners. In the second inning, the Nighthawks' Courtney Schafer led off with a single. But with Allie Treinin attempting a sacrifice bunt and ELC first baseman Alyssa Friesner playing in, Clayton got a snap throw to Morgan White to make the tag.
In the sixth inning, the Nighthawks had runners at first and second when Cassie Van Beek tried to steal third base. Clayton's throw to third baseman Sarah Schacherer was in time to get the second out of the inning as the senior made the tag on Van Beek. A pop up ended that inning.
Another defensive play of note came in the fifth inning. With one out, Kerr bunted. Brashear grabbed the ball, but her throw to first base was off the mark. But as Kerr rounded first, right fielder Colleen Humble backed up the play, got the ball and Kerr was unable to get back to first base in time as Friesner made the tag.
ELC's first chance to score came in the third inning when Megan Jensen drew a two-out walk, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. But then Gjerde went down on strikes as CJ Van Der Zwaag recorded her sixth strikeout.
In the fifth inning, Rylee Miller hit a one-out single off the Nighthawks' first baseman. Rachel Bates laid down the sacrifice bunt to move the runner, Humble, to second base. A fly ball by Jensen to left field ended the threat.
ELC's best chance to score came in the sixth inning. Gjerde drew a leadoff walk. Clayton laid down a bunt that landed in the midst between the BRHV pitcher, third baseman and first baseman. None grabbed the ball. Clayton reached on the hit while Gjerde took third base as no one was covering the bag.
Brashear then attempted to a squeeze bunt to give the speedy Gjerde a chance to make a break for home. But the ball popped up and was caught by the catcher. Clayton was able to tag up and move to second on the play. Alyssa Friesner then popped up in foul territory to the first baseman. Schacherer went down on strikes and ELC came up empty.
In the top of the seventh, White drew a leadoff walk, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Miller, but then Bates popped out to the catcher and Jensen went down on strikes.
"Offensively, we had our opportunities, we just need that one timely hit," said Anderson.
ELC finished with four hits as Clayton, Friesner, Schacherer and Miller each were 1-3.
Brashear took the loss. She ended up with four strikeouts and one walk. The Nighthawks finished with nine hits.
"Liz was really hitting her spots," said Anderson. When she got behind, she came back. Her change up was really effective too."
Brashear, along with Schacherer and Bates, are the squad's three seniors.
"I thank them for all their time and effort to make our program better," said Anderson.