CHARITON — When Wayne of Corydon lost the coin toss for home team in Monday’s regional final against Mount Ayr, Lady Falcon coach Heather Fortune took a pragmatic approach.
“I said, well, we get to score first. Let’s go out and do it big,” Fortune said.
That they did. The Class 1A fifth-ranked Lady Falcons rocked Raiderette starting pitcher Tessa Shields for four straight hits after a walk, including a home run by center fielder Shania Austin, prompting Mount Ayr coach Ranae Klinkefus to insert third baseman Macy Larsen in the circle with no outs in the top of the first inning.
Larsen got three straight outs to curb the Falcon attack, but not before five runs had crossed the plate.
“I could just tell from Tessa’s body language that she was tense out there, and we needed a change,” Klinkefus said.
Mount Ayr answered with two runs off Wayne all-state pitcher Breanna Fortune. Paige Daughton opened with a single, Larsen reached on an error and Kirsten Dolecheck drove an RBI single to right field. An error allowed another run to score and Alyssa Johnson singled as it was apparent the Raiderettes would not be as intimidated as in a previous 10-0 loss to the Lady Falcons.
However, Fortune allowed only two more hits the rest of the way by Billie Stark and Megan Warin as Wayne sailed to a 14-2 victory in three innings.
Fortune and Wayne third baseman Brennan Banks, the leadoff batter in the lineup who scored three runs, are both Southwestern Community College softball recruits. They had big roles in earning their career third state tournament berths dating back to their eighth-grade season in 2010.
Besides pitching the shutout, Fortune had one of the team’s two home runs in finishing 3-of-3 at the plate with five RBI.
Right fielder Mary Ann Downs also had a productive game on a night when 20 mph wind gusts were blowing straight to left field. Downs, a lefty batting third in the lineup, was 2-of-3 with two doubles and five runs batted in.
“They hit well up and down the lineup,” Klinkefus said. “We hit the ball solid tonight, too, compared to the last time we played them. We came into this game with nothing to lose. I’m proud of them.”
Fortune had 15 strikeouts in Friday’s 8-0 win over Lamoni, pushing her season total to 266 in 193 innings. On Monday, Mount Ayr batters struck out only twice in three innings. Fortune issued no walks.
Larsen was touched for nine runs and nine hits in a relief role for Mount Ayr, but only issued two walks with one strikeout.
After the loss, Klinkefus had mixed feelings. She’s encouraged about the prospects for her youthful team, yet it was also the last time she’d have seniors Daughton and Brook Rychnovsky at shortstop and right field, respectively.
Daughton batted .354 with a team-high 21 stolen bases and 27 runs scored. Rychnovsky became a solid outfielder and will join Wayne’s Fortune and Banks on the SWCC team next year.
“Brooke was also the spunk of our team,” Klinkefus said. “Those two seniors are big losses.
“But,” the Raiderette coach added, “Kirsten Dolecheck remarked that other than the two seniors, the rest of the team is sophomores or younger. She said we’re going to be around awhile!”
Both pitchers, Shields and Larsen, are freshmen and Johnson is an eighth-grader behind the plate.
This is a team that showed growth during the season, posting a 12-5 record after a rough 1-8 start. It was the school’s first regional final since a one-run loss to Underwood in 1997.
“I’m very excited about the future of this team,” Klinkefus said.
Wayne (27-6) takes more experience to state than the young squad that placed eighth in 2012. Fortune and Banks were sophomores then, and eighth-grade starters on the school’s first qualifying team in 2010 that was state runner-up.
That year, pitcher Cassandra Darrah was Class 2A Player of the Year. She recently concluded a successful career at the University of Wisconsin.
“We came to the field very focused today and did their jobs out there,” coach Fortune said. “I told them don’t relax just because we scored five runs, because Mount Ayr is a good ball team. That’s the approach we want to take to Fort Dodge. The goal this year is to get on the winning side of the bracket after game one.”
Ten players on this year’s Wayne roster are juniors or seniors.
The Lady Falcons open against sixth-ranked Martensdale-St. Marys (25-4) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. In conference play this season the teams split, with Martensdale-St. Marys winning the first meeting 6-2, followed by a 9-0 Wayne victory on June 17.
Wayne 14, Mount Ayr 2
R H E
Wayne 545 — 14 13 1
Mt. Ayr 200 — 2 5 2
W: Breanna Fortune 2K 0BB and Dally Veach. MA: Tessa Shields 0K 1BB, Macy Larsen (1) 1K 2BB and Alyssa Johnson. W — Fortune. L— Shields. HR — W: B. Fortune, Shania Austin. 2B — W: Mary Ann Downs 2, Gabriella Buban 1. RBI — W: Downs 5, Fortune 5, S. Austin 2, Demi Austin 2; MA: Kirsten Dolecheck 1. Multiple hitters — W: Fortune 3, Veach 2, Downs 2, D. Austin 2.