Fort Dodge, Iowa – West Liberty coach Chad Libby could tell his team was going to play well ahead of Friday’s third-place showdown with Waterloo Columbus.
The Comets had Thursday off, which Libby said gave them the opportunity to relax and have fun. That’s also exactly what West Liberty did on the field Friday in Fort Dodge in an 8-3 win over Columbus Catholic to claim third place in Class 3A.
“This team plays better when they have fun and are in a relaxed atmosphere,” Libby said. “That’s what they did today.”
The win to claim the third-place trophy in its first trip to state put a bow on the most successful season in school history for West Liberty (30-6). Juniors Haylee Lehman and Austyn Crees were named to the 3A all-tournament team.
“This team at the core of everything has played together, competed together and had each other’s back,” Libby said. “It was nice to see that type of team effort today.”
Northern Iowa signee Macy Akers sparked West Liberty in her final high school game.The senior smacked a two-RBI single with the bases loaded to blow the game open in the bottom of the second. She did it again in the fifth inning to give the Comets a pair of insurance runs.
“I think I was seeing the ball really well,” Akers said. “I was really in the moment, not going to lie. I think we all just wanted to end the season with a bang, which we did.”
However, Columbus Catholic (36-6) jumped out in front of West Liberty early. Leadoff hitter Taylor Hogan beat out an infield single, and Kayla Sproul hit a two-out RBI single to score the game’s first run.
The Comets didn’t stay down for long, though. Junior catcher Austyn Crees smashed a solo home run well over the center field fence in the bottom of the first to tie the score and snatch momentum.
“That home run was probably more crucial than the one run it scored,” Libby said. “To be able to finish the first inning still tied was important to us in not having to come from behind. She hit that thing about as well as I’ve seen her hit one.”
After senior pitcher Isabelle True struck out two and retired the side, West Liberty blew the game open in the bottom of the second.
It started with a leadoff double by Sailor Hall, who scored on an RBI single by Isabel Morrison to give the Comets a 2-1 lead. Morrison later scored on an error, Crees walked home a run and Akers drove in two for a 6-1 lead.
Akers drove in another two runs to cap off the Comets’ season and her five-year career.
“There have been a lot of emotions,” Akers said. “I was crying today before the game when my parents came up and hugged me. I’ve been a Comet since I was eight, and it’s just a really surreal feeling.
“It’s been amazing to be part of this team.”