COBB — It only took 10 minutes to burst the bubble on Iowa–Grant’s sensational 2014 softball season.
Visiting Mineral Point took advantage of three Panther errors and scored five runs in a disastrous top half of the first inning that set the tone for Iowa–Grant’s painful exit from the WIAA Division 3 playoffs last Thursday afternoon at Scheper Park.
The second-seeded Pointers (19–5) cruised to an easier-than-expected 12–2 regional final victory after splitting a pair of close games with the SWAL champion Panthers (20–3) during the regular season.
Senior Beth Wood walked to lead off the game and after a sacrifice bunt by Halie Schmitz, Morgan Pittz reached on the first of seven Iowa–Grant errors in the game.
Clara Chambers singled to center to score Wood, and a throwing error on the play allowed Pittz to score, making it 2–0. Another I–G error and RBI singles by Destinie Kruser and Megan Blume capped the Point rally.
“They hit the ball hard, but we didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” said Iowa–Grant head coach Deanna Fulton. “Had we made the plays defensively we might have only given up one or two runs and it could have been a different game.”
So what happened to Fulton’s team on Thursday, a team that went 18–2 during the regular season, beat this very same Mineral Point team 5–3 on April 8 and went on to win the program’s first SWAL title since 1998?
“There were some nerves. It was a big spotlight, there were a lot of fans and we were playing a big game against our conference rivals,” said Fulton. “I believe we could have hit better with more opportunities, but we never really gave ourselves a chance. That first inning really gave them a lot of momentum. They came up to the plate with a lot more confidence and hit the ball hard the rest of the game. We weren’t able to turn it around defensively.”
Mineral Point added three runs in the top of the fourth to make it 8–0.
Savannah Lawinger reached on another Iowa–Grant error before Wood drove her in with a single up the middle. Schmitz then reached on a bunt single. Paula Pittz singled up the middle to drive in two.
Iowa–Grant chipped away at Point’s hefty lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Junior outfielder Shania Sarbacker singled to start the rally and promptly stole second base. She later scored when senior first baseman Kylie Moneypenny’s triple skipped under the glove of the Mineral Point right fielder. Moneypenny scored two pitches later on a Mineral Point error to make it 8–2.
Point crippled any potential Iowa–Grant comeback hopes with four runs in the fifth, including a Schmitz three-run triple to left centerfield.
After losing the ball in the sun, I–G centerfielder Brittanie Lawinger slipped allowing the ball to fall and the speedy Schmitz ended up on third before scoring on a wild pitch.
Wood closed the door on the Panthers in the bottom of the fifth closing out the five-inning complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Junior Brea Stanton (20–3) suffered just her third loss of the season allowing 12 runs, three earned, on seven hits. She struck out two and walked two.
Iowa–Grant finished its banner season with a record of 20–3 overall.
“Obviously it’s hard to end the season the way we did. It’s not what we envisioned going into that ball game, but I hope this one game does not take away from a great season,” said Fulton. “I could not be more proud as a coach of what this group accomplished. We battled all year. A lot of our games were close games, one or two-run games, or games where we had to come from behind to win. I wouldn’t replace this year for anything. It would have been nice to be regional champs, but no one can take away the conference championship.”
Last Tuesday Iowa–Grant survived a 3–2 eight-inning regional semifinal against visiting Boscobel (8–11).
Freshman Emma Liddicoat scored on a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Panthers to a dramatic walk-off win.
Ashley Liddicoat walked to start the winning rally. Emma Liddicoat then came on to pinch run and advance to third on Stanton’s swinging bunt.
Junior shortstop Taylor Jackson went 2-for-4 in the win.
WIAA Division 3 regional final
Mineral Point 12, Iowa–Grant 2
(from Thursday, May 29 at Cobb)
Mineral Point 500 34 — 12 7 1
Iowa–Grant 000 20 — 2 4 7
Leading hitters — MP: Kruser 2x3; IG: Shania Sarbacker 2x2. 2B — MP: Kruser. W — Wood (19–5, 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 SO, 0 BB). L — Brea Stanton (20–3, 5 IP, 7 H, 12 R, 3 ER, 2 SO, 2 BB).
WIAA Division 3 regional semifinals
Iowa–Grant 3, Boscobel 2
(from Tuesday, May 27 at Cobb)
Boscobel 000 020 00 — 2 5 3
Iowa–Grant 200 000 01 — 3 6 3
Leading hitters — B: Ferris 2x3; IG: Taylor Jackson 2x4. 2B — IG: Ashley Liddicoat. W — Brea Stanton (20–2, 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 SO, 0 BB). L — Anna Johnson 7.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 7 SO, 2 BB).