FORT DODGE, Iowa – Down three runs in the top of the seventh inning to top-ranked Davenport Assumption, reality started to set in for Louisa-Muscatine.
“Mallory Hohenadel, when she was up to bat, she had a tear in her eye,” Louisa-Muscatine coach Bryan Butler said. “I put my arm around her, and she said ‘This is going to be my last at-bat ever.’”
That proved true, as Assumption ace Allie Timmons retired No. 2 Louisa-Muscatine to clinch a 7-4 win in Friday’s Class 3A state title game for the Knights. Davenport Assumption (41-2) is now the third program to three-peat in summer softball.
It was a nightmare start for Louisa-Muscatine, which fell behind 7-0 after three innings, and a four-run fourth inning wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit.
For the Falcons (35-5), they fall one win shy of a repeat in Fort Dodge. While the Assumption celebration ensued moments after the final out, Butler huddled his team for a brief message: Be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
“We had a great season,” Butler said. “Of course, we’re disappointed. We came back, we didn’t roll over. I was so proud of them for that.
“We laid everything out on the field that last game; (we) just came up short.”
Hailey Sanders, who has pitched the last chunk of the season with a stress fracture in her left fibula, surrendered a season-high four walks. Assumption rarely bit on her rise ball and made things tough on the junior.
“They are very disciplined,” Louisa-Muscatine catcher Katie Hearn said of Assumption. “They did their homework on Hailey. They didn’t chase, so it made us work harder.”
The Knights put a pair of runs on the board in the first inning by way of a two-RBI single by Anna Wohlers. Errors by L-M’s Kylee Sanders and Mallory Mashek led to three more runs in the third.
“It’s hard when there are runners on base,” Mallory Hohenadel said. “It makes you think a lot faster, and that’s what happens.”
Assumption’s Lauren Loken smashed a two-run home run in the third inning to put Louisa-Muscatine in a 7-0 hole.
Still, the Falcons never lost hope.
“We’re strong, and we’re tough-minded,” Mallory Hohenadel said. “We can push through even when we’re down.”
Maddie Mashek, Hailey Sanders and Hearn all singled to load the bases with one out in the top of the fourth inning. With the bases loaded in the semifinals against West Liberty, Butler opted to pinch-hit for freshman Brynn Jeambey because ‘Her head was out of the game.’
Butler let Jeambey hit this time, and the freshman proved worthy of her coach's trust. She drilled a two-RBI single through the middle of the infield to cut the deficit to 7-2.
“The past few games I’ve been focusing on my approach and the physical stuff instead of the mental stuff,” Jeambey said. “This game, I went in thinking I’m going to get at least one hit. My second at-bat, I went up there and was like ‘This is it, this is going to be my hit.
“I had so much confidence, and that’s the difference between getting a hit and not.”
Mallory Mashek and Kylee Sanders each hit in a pair of runs to bring the Falcons within 7-4. Kylee is joined on the 3A all-tournament team by teammates Hailey Sanders and McKenna Hohenadel.
The four earned runs were more than Timmons gave up in any start this season. However, on Kylee’s double, Mallory Hohenadel was thrown out at home to end the inning. Louisa-Muscatine managed just one base runner over the course of the next three innings.
“I’m sending every time,” Butler said. “We have momentum, and we have a kid who I think has good speed. We’re going to take our chances. They’re a good team. The throw has to be right on the money, and the tag has to be made. They did a really good job.”
The Falcon’s hung around on the strength of Hailey Sanders’ pitching in the last three innings. After a shaky start, she recorded four of her five strikeouts after the first time through Assumption's lineup.
Louisa-Muscatine, which outhit Assumption 8-6, couldn’t string anything together to rally past the Class 3A champs. Still, the Falcons proved last year wasn’t a fluke. They’ve made two trips to Fort Dodge and returned home with a first and second-place trophy.
They don’t plan on stopping there.
“Teams don’t just get this far just because they get this far,” Jeambey said. “We’re going to come back stronger next year.”