LENOX — The Mount Ayr softball team that began the year 1-8 will look to extend its incredible postseason run another step tonight.
The Raiderettes improved to 13-12 with a 12-0 victory over Bedford in a Region 6 semifinal game here Friday, after bolting to an 8-0 lead in the first inning.
The next hurdle is a big one, however. Mount Ayr faces Pride of Iowa Conference rival Wayne of Corydon, 26-6 and ranked fifth in Class 1A, in a regional final at 7 p.m. today at Chariton.
Wayne won the previous meeting this season, 10-0.
But that was before the Raiderettes gained momentum, a run that included wins over fellow POI members East Union, Lenox and Bedford last week.
“It was 7-0 last time we played Wayne and we pitched to (Breanna) Fortune. She hit a flyball, but it was an error and all the runners scored to make it 10-0,” Mount Ayr coach Ranae Klinkefus said. “They’re a great team, but mentally we are in a better position now. We’re hitting. Nothing changes but the timing. Hitting is a timing thing. If we can get the ball in play and get some baserunners on, that’s the key. We’ve been alert and aggressive on the bases.”
That certainly was the case Friday in a game that was moved from Murray to Lenox after ninth-ranked Murray was stunned 9-4 by Bedford Wednesday night.
Mount Ayr put Friday’s game away early by scoring eight runs on two hits, three errors, two walks and a hit batter in the first inning.
“Errors hurt us a bunch in that first inning,” Bedford coach Kenny Weed said. “I honestly don’t think they would have scored in that inning if we make the plays on those two pop flies.”
The rest of the game, the margin was only 4-0. But the damage had been done. Weed called on senior Michaela Mogler to relieve sophomore starting pitcher Rachel Armstrong in the third inning when the score reached 10-0.
“When we score first, we play better. We have confidence,” Klinkefus said. “They played great defense against Murray. The way we hit the ball tonight was the difference. We hit a couple right at them, but for the most part we hit gaps and we hit it hard.”
At the top of the Raiderette lineup, Paige Daughton was 2-of-3 with two runs scored and four RBI. Megan Warin smacked a double during the eight-run outburst, and cleanup batter Kirsten Dolecheck ripped a two-run triple to right field.
To prepare her batters for Friday’s pitching speed, Klinkefus stressed proper timing.
“I was a catcher (at Panorama) and I pitch BP to the girls,” she said. “I’m pretty accurate, but I’m about that speed. So that’s what we did. We preached load, load, load until you explode. Otherwise, you’ll be dropping your hands. So we practiced it.”
Bedford, meanwhile, was held to three hits in the shutout pitched by Tessa Shields, who finished with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“Tessa is on right now,” Klinkefus said. “Her pitches are hitting the spots we want them to. And she’s throwing the changeup for strikes.”
Bedford had single baserunners in the first, second and fourth innings on hits by Callie Calfee, Fallyn Beemer and Mogler. However, Mount Ayr catcher Alyssa Johnson threw out Calfee trying to steal in the first inning to extinguish some of Bedford’s “small ball” attack.
Seniors on the Bedford squad concluding their careers are Maddy Walston, Michaela Mogler, Jamie Herzberg and Loryn Dillon.
Since beating Bedford 10-0 on June 26, Mount Ayr is 6-2 and has scored in double figures four times, in addition to an 8-0 win over East Union.
“We’re having fun right now,” Klinkefus said. “Our turning point was the last time we played Bedford. We started playing like a whole different team. We have positive vibes and the morale.”
They’ll need every edge they can muster tonight. Wayne cruised 8-0 over Lamoni Friday for its 26th victory. Fortune, a Southwestern Community College recruit, fanned 15 batters while allowing only one walk and one hit.
Wayne had only six hits, but benefitted from 15 bases on balls issued by Lamoni pitching. Second baseman Demi Austin hit a triple and double for the Falcons.
Mount Ayr has been in a couple of regional semifinal games (Friday’s round) against Martensdale-St. Marys and Bondurant-Farrar in 2010 and 2009, but James Saville of the Mount Ayr Record-News said records indicate the school has not played in a regional final since falling to Underwood in 1997.
The last Mount Ayr state tournament appearances were in 1994 and 1982 under coach Mark Larsen, whose granddaughter Macy Larsen plays third base for the 2014 squad.
Mount Ayr 12, Bedford 0
R H E
Mt. Ayr 802 2 — 12 5 0
Bedford 000 0 — 0 3 3
MA: Tessa Shields 7K 0BB and Alyssa Johnson. B: Rachel Armstrong 1K 3BB, Michaela Mogler (3) 2K 2BB and Charissa Mogler. W — Shields. L— Armstrong. 3B — MA: Kirsten Dolecheck. 2B — MA: Megan Warin. RBI — MA: Paige Daughton 4, Dolecheck 2, Macy Larsen 1, Billie Stark 1. Multiple hitters — MA: Daughton 2.