An eighth-grader got things going for the Newell-Fonda softball team, and a seasoned senior was her steady self on the mound as the Mustangs edged Laurens-Marathon 7-5 here Friday night in a Class 1A, Region 2 semifinal.
The game featured two of the top pitchers in Class 1A in Newell-Fonda senior Hanna Reis and Laurens-Marathon junior Bryn Johnson. Both led their teams to the state tournament last season.
With that much firepower in the circle, most expected a pitcher's duel, but it certainly wasn't that. The Mustangs banged out 11 hits and the Chargers nine.
Newell-Fonda's youngest player, eighth-grader Susan Kies, might have had the game's biggest hit.
After two scoreless innings, Kies ripped a ground single right over the second base bag, driving in Michelle Grau and senior Ashley Lussman. Grau had led off with a basehit and Lussman reached on an error.
Johnson reached back for something extra and got the next hitter, but Kies nailed a 1-1 fastball.
"I was just hoping to make contact and also I wanted to find a hole in the infield," Kies said after the game. "This was a good win for us, but we're taking this one at at time.
"We haven't played this well in a few weeks," said Newell-Fonda coach Dick Jungers, whose team improved to 25-11.
"We had some timely hits and Hanna did a great job pitching against a good-hitting (L-M) team."
Monday night, N-F will play for its second straight state tourney berth when it meets third-ranked North Kossuth, 4-2 winners over North Central Friday in another semi Friday.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs struck for three more runs in the top of the fourth.
Freshman Lauren Devereaux led off with an infield hit, then N-F shortstop Kelly Johnson lined a pitch to right. After Sam Schaffer bunted for a single to load the bases, Grau hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
Johnson was a pitch or two from getting out of the inning with just one run, but Mustang pitcher Hanna Reis helped her cause with a line single to center to score Schaffer and Grau for a 5-0 lead.
"We made just two errors, but they were very costly," first-year Laurens-Marathon coach Ashley Partlow said. "We didn't play as well in the field as we usually do and that was the difference."
On the mound, Reis was throwing hard and mixed things up with a devastating changeup.
In the bottom of the fourth, L-M finally got to Reis. Kacie Woodley led off with a triple and scored on an error. Later in the inning freshman Hollie Hofmaster singled home another run and L-M was within 5-2.
Lussman had an RBI single in the top of the sixth for a 6-2 Mustang lead, and some mental mistakes in the field cost the Chargers a run in the top of the seventh.
L-M rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three runs on hits by Johnson, Laci Hall and RBI-groundout by Woodley plus a couple of N-F errors.
That prompted a visit to the mound by Jungers. Reis settled down and with N-F clinging to a 7-5 lead, she coaxed Jordan Sundblad to pop out to second baseman Tiffany Parker.
"We knew this one was going to be tough," Reis said. "They have some tough hitteres in their lineup.
"After we scored those two runs early in the game, I knew we'd score more. Usually when we score early in a game we keep scoring."
L-M's Partlow said she was pleased with the season, adding that the Chargers (22-8) won't lose a single player to graduation.