COUNCIL BUFFS — Coming into the season, Taylor Jonas was regarded as one of Iowa Western’s best players.
Struggles at the plate and the play of teammate Chelsea King as IWCC’s designated player, however, had relegated the 2012 All-Region XI second-team selection to an afterthought in recent weeks.
Prior to Monday’s winner-take-all District J championship final with Jefferson (Mo.), Jonas had made only four plate appearances in a month. The No. 12 Reivers (41-12) were trailing by two with two outs and two on when she was asked to pinch hit in the biggest game of the year.
Jonas delivered an opposite-field single to drive in the first of IWCC’s four runs during the decisive fourth inning that sent the Reivers to a 4-2 victory and earned them a spot in the upcoming NJCAA national tournament, which takes place May 15 through 18 in St. George, Utah.
“I live for that moment,” the sophomore said. “Last year, that was my big role. When runners were in scoring position, I would step up to the plate and do what I do best. I love pressure.”
The RBI single by Jonas opened the door for IWCC’s big rally. Rebekah Sanchez followed with a game-tying single to left. Michelle Trulin then reached on an infield hit to load the bases for KayLynn Chrisman, who put the Reivers in front with a two-run single to center.
Jefferson pitcher Megan Gurski had given up only a bunt single through three innings and had fanned the first two Reivers she faced in the fourth before Vanessa Molina started a string of six consecutive Iowa Western hits with a single to left.
“We were down, but we knew we could come back,” Chrisman said.
After Gurski led off the seventh with a single, Aubrey Voboril came on to face Chloe Wolf, Jefferson’ single-season home run and RBI leader. The Reiver reliever caught Wolf looking before retiring two of the next three batters to clinch IWCC’s third national tournament berth.
“She’s intimidating, but you can’t let that get to you,” Voboril said. “I don’t play mind games, I do what I can. ... I just focus on hitting my spot and doing what the coach told me to do.”
Gurski struck out nine batters and gave up only two bunt singles and an infield hit outside of the fourth inning. But that one two-out rally was all the Reivers needed.
“One person on this team just needs to get something started,” IWCC coach Lana Ross said. “Vanessa did that in the fourth inning. ... That’s the only spark they needed for that inning.”
Iowa Western (41-12) ........................... 000 400 0—4 9 0
Jefferson (48-8) ........................... 200 000 0—2 7 3
W: Ashley Schmidt L: Megan Gurski S: Aubrey Voboril. 2B: J, Holly Marko.
Contact the writer:
712-325-5756, email@example.com, twitter.com/BooneOWH