On Monday night of this week I traveled to Fonda to cover the Mustang girls' game and celebration after clinching another state tournament birth. Congratulations to them for another trip to state. However, when I got back to the office I had learned that Alta-Aurelia had lost.
I figured since they were playing the third best team in 2A, would be a tough one. I knew Alta had a great team, but to face the third best in the state, that's a tall order for anyone. Then my editor explained to me what had happened to them.
Alta taking the lead when the rain came in, hearing that oh, that half inning doesn't really count and a giant sorry on their long bus ride home. None of that really made all that much sense to me. Why did this happen to them? Did the softball gods deem them unworthy of going to State?
No, they were more than worthy to go to State this year. Rather, it was the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union that smited the Warriors back down to earth. It's not uncommon to see a team rally in the seventh inning to take a lead in softball. Momentum can be picked up and taken at any given moment.
Alta seized the momentum to take a 5-4 lead going into the last half inning of the game. Then the rain rolled in. The rules from the IGHSAU state that in the event of rain that the score will roll back to the last completed full inning. So it rolled back to the 4-2 lead that Logan-Magnolia had, and that was the end of the game.
Coach Dave Turnquist had to explain to his team, lead by so many seniors, that the rain washed away their chances of their first ever state tournament berth. Granted, I haven't been in the area for all that long, but this team had a chance to make noise in the state tournament. A lot of noise at that. Instead, we only hear the silence. The silence of disappointment in a rule that has done them dirty, as today's youth likes to say.
The rule that cost AA their chance to go to State doesn't make any sense in a playoff game. The inning goes back to the last full inning that has been completed. That works well enough for the regular season where a loss like that can be made up in a game or two. With the way regionals work is a whole season's work can be lost on an administrative call.
In a do or die situation where a trip to the State Tournament is on the line though? There has to be a real ending to the game. No one goes to Fort Dodge to start play until the 18th. That's more than enough time to fit in a half inning. I was reading other newspapers where LM's girls are on record saying they know they could've beaten the Warriors if they had that half inning.
If Alta-Aurelia wants to hold their lead, and Logan-Magnolia thinks they can score two runs to win the game, let them. Let them go ahead and find a place in Logan, in Alta, anywhere in the state of Iowa where there is a softball field, and let them finish what they started. Do not let a trip to State get decided because of a coin toss and bad weather rolling in.
Everyone knew it was going to get nasty Monday night. It was forecasted all day. This whole miscarriage of justice could've been avoided with an earlier start time. It could've been avoided by a better rule. The fact of the matter is that there are two deserving teams who got a result on Monday night that neither wanted to happen that way, I believe.
Yes, Logan-Magnolia went to State, but the people who were there, who read about it, know that after the top half of the seventh inning they were not the better team. This creates a narrative for the LM team through the State Tournament that they were bailed out by a terrible rule in playoff softball, that maybe they do not deserve to be there.
Coach Turnquist said it right when he stated, "it's a joke." It's a joke, and no one is laughing. If the IHSGAU wants any rumors to end, any disgruntled rumblings to stop, they'll allow these two teams to finish what they started before the tournament begins.
As it stands right now, Alta-Aurelia's end to their season is a bad dream for their school, their players, their families, and their respective towns. This rule has to change before it ruins an even bigger game like a State Championship. Maybe then the IHSGAU will understand how terrible it is to roll a score back to the last completed full inning.