LETTS — The Louisa-Muscatine High School softball team is one win away from getting back to the state tournament.
McKenna Hohenadel singled and scored on an error in the third inning for the game's lone run and the Falcons road the one-hit, 15-strikeout pitching of junior Hailey Sanders to a 1-0 victory over Centerville in a Class 3A regional semifinal game Friday night at Louisa-Muscatine High School.
Second-ranked Louisa-Muscatine (32-4) advances to play 10th-ranked Williamsburg (31-11) at 7 p.m. Monday. The winner advances to the state tournament July 22-26 at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Centerville, coached by former Keokuk head coach D. Merle Jones, ends the season with a 15-16 record.
Survive and advance is the name of the game at this time of the year.
Louisa-Muscatine did just that.
"It was a tight game and I felt a lot of pressure, but I just did everything I could to keep myself calm," Sanders said. "I believe in our defense and I believe our bats came around."
"Of course we were nervous," Louisa-Muscatine catcher Katie Hearn said. "We never disrespect any team. We have a lot of respect for any competition we have."
"We didn't have a single strikeout in this game. W just hit the ball right at them," Louisa-Muscatine coach Bryan Butler said. "Now they have a story to tell the rest of their lives. That's why you run out every hit with two outs. That's how we scored that one run. One out of a hundred chance and that's what we needed and we got."
Centerville had its chances to break the ice, but couldn't hit Sanders. Taylor Shinn led off the second inning with a walk and Elizabeth Zintz drew a walk two outs later. But Sanders fanned Camille Hendricks to end that threat.
The Redettes threatened again in the fourth inning. Shinn reached on an error to open the inning. One out later, Lanie Moorman slashed a double to right field, putting runners at second and third.
Once again, Sanders was equal to the task, fanning Zintz and Hendricks to extinguish the threat.
"I believe in my defense and my pitches," Sanders said. "I knew what I could do. I've been pitching for so long."
The Falcons plated the only run of the game in the third inning. Hohenadel singled to left with two outs, stole second and scored on a Redette error.
"When she hit it I was like, 'All right, we have two outs.' It was one of those hits that was in the 'Bermuda Triangle' I call it," Hohenadel said. "We always preach run everything out. Hustle, hustle, hustle. No matter what. There's like a one in one hundred chance that is going to happen. (Butler) was screaming, 'Go, go, go' and I saw it drop out of the corner of my eye so I full-bored it from there."
"That was a relief off my shoulders because it was zero-zero for so long," Sanders said. "I knew that I could do the best I can to keep them to zero."
"When you're playing the defending state champ you've got to come up with hits in situations," Jones said. "We just didn't get it done with the bats. We left five runners on base. All it takes is one clutch hit and you get a couple runs and we didn't get that tonight. But the kids are trying."
While the Falcons were hitting ropes right at defenders, it was catcher Katie Hearn who came up with the big defensive play of the night. Trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning, Claire Mathews led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. After a strikeout for the second out, Jones elected to have Mathews steal third. Hearn made a perfect throw to third baseman Brynn Jeambey, who applied the tag to end the inning.
"I'm just doing my job. It takes more than just me. My third baseman was there, we had backup and Hailey made a great pitch. Everything just worked out perfectly. It was a team effort," Hearn said. "It was just one play, but it was also very key."
"She does a great job behind the plate," Butler said of Hearn. "Not too many people steal on her. She's always ready."
"I was just trying something," Jones said. "Looking back it was probably poor judgment on my part. But you never know. That ball goes into left field and it's a tie ball game. One thing I learned with my experience in the regionals is if you sit back and wait for things to happen, you're going to get beat. That was my call. They did a nice job on that and they got her."
Sanders set down the Redettes in order in the seventh to send Louisa-Muscatine back to a regional final.
"Hailey did an outstanding job. She kept us in the game," Butler said. "That's what she does when she pitches. She keeps the team in games. They made a mistake and we capitalized on it.I was hoping we could push more across, but you get what you get and move on. A win is a win and we have another day to play."
WP — Hailey Sanders (18-0). LP — Alyssa McElvain (14-13). Leading hitters — Louisa-Muscatine: McKenna Hohenadel 2-3. 2B — Lanie Moorman (C).
Records: Centerville 15-16, Louisa-Muscatine 32-4.