Tornadoes fall 4-2 to Carroll in 12 after forcing extra innings with dramatic, two-out rally
Through 12 innings Tuesday night, the Storm Lake High and Carroll softball teams dueled it out like two heavyweight fighters with solid punching power and finesse.
After the Tornadoes scored twice in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, it was a matter of which team would blink first.
"It was a classic high school softball game," said Carroll coach Erin Shiebel. "Both teams had their chances in extra innings; it was the type of game where it was a shame one team had to lose."
Unfortunately for the Storm Lake, the Tigers took advantage of some Tornado miscues in the field, scoring two unearned runs in the top of the 12th. Storm Lake loaded the bases in the bottom half of that inning, but failed to score, dropping a 4-2 decision.
The Class 3A Region 1 Final was played at Carroll High Field. The Tigers improved to 28-11 with the win and advanced to next week's state tournament in Fort Dodge.
With the loss, Storm Lake finished 40-12 on the season. Coach Jason Stoltzfus said the loss was taken hard by his team, particularly the seniors.
"I told them after the game that they didn't have anything to hang their heads about." Stoltzfus said. "Our kids know they gave absolutely everything they had."
As expected, the game was a taut pitcher's duel between two of Iowa's top prep pitchers, Storm Lake's Trish Halder and Carroll's senior Kora Behrens.
Halder gave up a first-inning run after Tiger outfielder Kayla Quant opened the game with a single, advanced to second on a fielder's choice and scored on cleanup hitter Jayna Fischbach's single.
Behrens came out of the dugout firing smoke, striking out ten Storm Lake hitters and allowing just two baserunners through the first four innings.
The Tigers made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth when Steph Eifler reached on an infield error and later scored on a passed ball.
The Tornadoes became more patient at the plate, and it yielded results. They got singles from Anna Paulsen and Ty Zimmerman in the sixth, but with two outs, Behrens struck out senior Jess Overturf to end the threat.
"For us, it wasn't a matter of whether we'd get to Behrens, but when we'd do it," Stoltzfus said.
The Tornadoes did get to Behrens, but just barely in time.
With Carroll leading 2-0, Behrens retired the first two Storm Lake hitters in the bottom of the seventh on a groundout to third and a pop-out to third.
Junior Morgan Darrow was behind on the count at 1-2 and the Tornadoes down to their last strike, but she was patient and drew a walk.
Leftfielder Lindsay Guenther hit a grounder to short, but it was bobbled and Guenther's outstanding speed, she beat the throw at first.
With runners on first and second, SL leadoff hitter Halder also got behind 1-2, but eventually coaxed Behrens to a 3-2 count.
On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Halder laced a high liner to the gap in right center, with Darrow easily scoring. Stoltzfus sent Guenther home as well. The Tiger rightfielder got the ball back quickly to the cutoff person, who made a nice relay home.
The throw beat Guenther, but she slid hard into catcher Ashlee Patrick, prying the ball loose and tying the game. Halder advanced to third on the relay, and the Tornadoes looked to end it.
Behrens got Paulsen on a medium-deep fly to right to force extra innings.
"I thought our eight and nine hitters (Darrow and Guenther), really gave us a chance to get the tie in the seventh," Stoltzfus said. "They had a couple of clutch at-bats and then we got to Trish and the top of our order up."
Both teams threatened numerous times in the extra-innings that followed.
The Tornadoes went down in order in the eighth, but left two runners on in the ninth. In the tenth, Paulsen led off with a walk and advanced to second on a groundout.
Zimmerman laced a line single to left that got to the Carroll outfielder quick enough for Stoltzfus to hold Paulsen at third.
With runners on second and third and just one out, Behrens toughened. Overturf popped out to Behrens, then the lanky righthander struck out Heidi Hammen to end the threat.
"We had our chances, and looking back, I probably should have sent Anna home and forced them to make a play," Stoltzfus said.
"But we had a runner on third with one out. The way I see it, this game never should have lasted as long as it did. We should have put it away when we had the chance."
Behrens settled down in the bottom of the 11th, retiring the Tornadoes in order.
Then her team gave her two runs in the top of the 12th. Third-place hitter Rachel Reicks led off by reaching first in an infield error. Stoltzfus had Halder intentionally walk Fischbach, putting runners on first and second with no outs.
The next Tiger hitter, Karyn Forke, hit a slow grounder to the right of SLSH second baseman Paulsen. She made a nifty backhand stab, and dove on second for the force out.
Fischbach had slid into second and landed on top of Paulsen. Reicks got to third, never quit running and scored. Paulsen was never able to get a throw to home off, and Stoltzfus argued that Fischback had interfered with Paulsen at second, The umpires let the call and the run stand.
Forke later scored when Zimmerman misplayed a ball at third on a throw.
"We just ran into some back luck in the 12th," Stoltzfus said. "I though it really changed the game when they got the second run in the 12th. That limited some of the things we could have done in the bottom half of the inning."
The Tornadoes, meanwhile, nearly reprised the bottom of the seventh in their last at-bat in the bottom of the 12th.
Halder led off by getting on via an error on Tiger third baseman Fischbach. After Paulsen popped out to Behrens, SLHS catcher Mel Fisher went down on strikes for the second out.
Zimmerman laced another hit to left, getting Overturf to the plate. The steady senior had had a rough night at the plate to that point, going 0-5 with two strikeouts.
Behrens quickly got to strikes on Overturf, as the Tornadoes were again down to their last strike. Stoltzfus called time and had a brief chat with his senior.
"I just told Jess that now's the time to get a hit," the coach said.
The left-handed Overturf
responded, lacing Behrens' 2-2 pitch to left, loading the
bases. The senior pitcher bore down and struck out Hammen on three blazing fastballs to end the game.
"A big keys for us were Kara's ability to get strikeouts and keep the ball out of play," Schiebel said. "And on offense, I think we made consistent contact with the ball a little better than Storm Lake did."
Playing their last game in Tornado uniforms were four seniors - Paulsen, Fisher, Overturf and Amy Sennert.
"The seniors are going to be awfully tough to replace," Stoltzfus said. "They are outstanding people and it was because of their great play and leadership that we had a record-breaking season."
Stoltzfus, however, added that his team will challenge for a state berth next season.
"We've got a solid nucleus in place, and some kids with a lot of potential who we feel will replace our seniors," he said. "We'll be back."
NOTES: Storm Lake players who made the 2005 All-Lakes Conference first team were Halder, Fisher, Zimmerman, Paulsen and Overturf. Hammen gaine second team Lakes honors while Darrow, Sennert and Guenther were honorable mention.
Fisher, Zimmerman and Halder made the All-District team while Coach Stoltzfus was named District coach of the year.Fisher will play in two prep all star games, including one Aug. 9 including players from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.