Spirit Lake tried to rain on Algona's parade here Thursday night in a Class 3A district softball contest, but the Indians came up just short of the upset after a runner interference call and groundout ended the contest with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
"It's kind of how our season has went," Indians head coach Joleen Brown said. "We played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win, but couldn't capitalize in key situations."
The Bulldogs used a two-run first inning to jump ahead early and then plated an insurance run in the seventh to give them a 4-2 advantage. Spirit Lake battled back to load the bases in the bottom half of the frame. With one out, No. 1 hitter Mary Brown looked to have tied the game with a two-run single to left field, but a runner interference call on Kylie Stoll forced the second out of the inning and brought Megan Ingvall back to third base. In the Indians' next at-bat, Christina Hanson grounded out to second baseman Chelsey Degen to finish off the game with a 4-2 Bulldogs win.
Spirit Lake hurler Mary Brown held an Algona team that was batting .346 as a team for the season to just seven hits, four of which made it out of the infield, and struck out a season-high 12 batters.
"They didn't hit the ball square, but the ball just didn't bounce our way tonight," Coach Brown said. "Mary pitched well, but a hit batter and base running mistake really came back to haunt us. We need to learn to stay consistent and focused for seven innings."
The right-hand hurler took the loss, despite holding the Bulldogs well below its season average of seven runs a game. She allowed four runs, three of the earned variety, walked four and hit one batter.
Left-hander Betsy Knudsen earned the win, allowing two runs on six hits while walking one and striking out none.
Algona spurted ahead in the top of the first, with two runs off two singles and an error.
The Indians cut the deficit down to 2-1 in the bottom half of the frame. Mary Brown singled to left field to start the inning. Christina Hanson then sacrificed pinch runner Ashley Colwell to second. Caila Jones sprayed a base hit to center field to put runners on the corners, when April Harbst plated Colwell on a groundout.
Alli Gerking led of the second with a chopper up the middle, but strong defense by the Bulldogs kept their one-run lead intact.
Brown mowed down the Bulldogs after giving up two early runs, retiring nine of 10 batter she faced until a two-out single in the fourth inning by Chelsey Degen. No. 9 hitter Kellie Morris drew a walk and then Kajewski sent a bleeder off the end of the bat into the hole for a single, which scored Degen to give Algona a 3-1 lead.
Spirit Lake's right-handed starter struck out the side in the fifth and then induced three groundouts in the sixth, before she got some run support from her offense.
Brown was robbed of a gapper by center fielder Ashley Kajewski to get the sixth started, but right fielder Maria Zeller dropped a fly ball to start a rally. Caila Jones fought to a full count before sending an RBI double down the right field line in the Indian's next at-bat. Courtesy runner Kory Heidebrink scored on the play to pull the Indians within 3-2. Knudsen forced the Indians into back-to-back groundouts to leave Jones stranded in the sixth.
Brown retired the side via three strikeouts in the seventh, but beaned Wendy Vitzthum with one out. Pinch runner Kelsey Kuecker stole second base before the Spirit Lake righty struck out Emily Reimers, who was batting .474 heading into the game. Designated hitter Mackenzie Siefken made the Indians pay for the hit batter, with an RBI single past Briana Brunsvold's glove to give them a 4-2 advantage.
In the bottom of the seventh, Megan Ingvall and Kylie Stoll strung together back-to-back singles with one out. Kylie Ingvall then drew a walk to load the bases. Mary Brown sent a grounder past Algona shortstop Emily Reimers, that scored two runs, but a runner interference call forced Stoll out at second base and made Megan Ingvall head back to the third base bag. The game changing play took the wind out of the Indian sails, and Christina Hanson left the bases full after grounding out to second base to end the game.
"We came up big in the seventh to give ourselves an opportunity to win. I loved how they battled and challenged there in the end," Brown added. "I thought our kids played well. Overall this was one of the better games we've played this year. They're a good hitting team that had 16 hits the first time we played (in a 12-6 Algona win June 29). The difference was that Mary kept the ball low and threw her change-up well until late in the game."
Offensively, Caila Jones was 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead Spirit Lake, who finished with six hits. Mary Brown, Alli Gerking, Megan Ingvall and Kylie Stoll each contributed a base hit in the contest while April Harbst drove in the team's only other run.
Algona junior Britany Harms paced the Bulldogs with two singles and an RBI while Ashley Kajewski was 1-for-4 with an RBI and Mackenzie Siefken was 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Algona improved to 25-12 overall and advanced to take on Storm Lake on the same diamond tonight at 7 with the win. Spirit Lake ended its season 9-29 overall.