NEOLA, Iowa — With one long sprint from Baily Janssen, Missouri Valley raced back into the thick of the Western Iowa Conference softball race.
What made the moment even sweeter is that the win came against the league’s tournament champion — crowned just last week.
Janssen tripled and scored on a throwing error in the top of the eighth inning, and the Lady Reds outlasted Iowa Class 2-A No. 8 Tri-Center 3-2 for a road triumph on a sweltering Wednesday evening. The outcome keeps Missouri Valley in contention for a regular-season WIC title when it faces 2-A No. 9 Treynor on Friday.
“They came ready,” Missouri Valley coach Rick McHugh said. “They wanted to prove we are with the others; we just have to keep playing. We want to show we’re one of the top teams in our conference.”
The Missouri Valley players were frustrated last week when, as the No. 3 seed, A-H-S-T bounced them from the tourney in the first round. They responded Wednesday with opportunistic hitting and a three-hit effort from winning pitcher Maggie Hawley.
Trailing 2-0, the Lady Reds (17-7, 10-2 WIC) knotted the contest in the sixth inning courtesy of three consecutive hits and a pair of errors by Tri-Center (17-6, 10-3). Janssen produced a one-out single and took second when the throw went into a dugout. Hawley drove in her teammate on the next pitch and went to second on an errant toss. Megan Housh capped the comeback with an RBI single to right.
In the eighth inning, it didn’t take Janssen long to produce a one-player rally — though the freshman felt like it took her forever to round the bases.
“When I hit first and turned to go to second, I wasn’t going to stop,” Janssen said. “This boosts our confidence a lot.”
The freshman shortstop dropped a triple into the right-field corner. The relay throw went into left field and Janssen cruised home, going back to touch the plate a second time for good measure.
“She did a good job of running the bases and kept her head up,” McHugh said. “She’s not the fastest thing, but when you throw a ball around, anything can happen.”
Tri-Center scored single runs in the first and fourth — with errors playing a part in both. Paige Pohlman’s RBI hit in the opening frame came after two Trojans had reached on fielding mistakes. The other came on a dropped throw at first base, which allowed a runner to score.
The matchup also was a potential preview of a 2-A regional quarterfinal next month. Missouri Valley opens at home against Logan-Magnolia on Tuesday, with the winner drawing the Trojans on July 5.
Tri-Center coach Pat Dalton said he hopes his team can regain its form by then. The top third of the order went a combined 0 for 12, and the defense committed five errors.
It seems like a long time ago his group beat the Lady Reds 2-1 on June 4. Missouri Valley tagged Tri-Center pitcher Malory Christiansen much harder this time around, finishing with seven hits as well as plenty more hard-hit balls.
“They’re young kids,” Dalton said. “Somebody told me the other day, ‘You’re dealing with 14- and 15-year-olds, and they’re going to make mistakes.’ How true that is.”
Missouri Valley (17-7, 10-2)........................000 002 01—3 7 3
Tri-Center (17-6, 10-3)................................100 100 00—2 3 5
W: Maggie Hawley. L: Malory Christiansen. 2B: MV, Hailey Hellstrom. 3B: Baily Janssen.