It took some determination Tuesday night, but the Blair softball team earned the Class B Subdistrict 2 Tournament title with 12-11, nine-inning victory against Ralston at the Youth Softball Complex.
Down injured starting pitcher Tory Villotta, who left the first subdistrict final game after a first-inning at-bat, the Bears had to outscore the Rams and, in the end, they did.
Coach Jennifer Fangmeier's BHS squad lost to Ralston 6-5 in the first final of the double-elimination tournament before earning a one-run win in the second on Carmen Warrick's walk-off winner. The victory qualified the Bears for Saturday's Class B District Final.
“I feel like we are all kind of cocky in a way,” Warrick said after the game. “I know I was going up there thinking I was going to hit my first home run, but that obviously didn't happen.”
But what the junior first baseman did was plenty. She pushed teammate Hannah Koch across the plate on a subdistrict-winning hit.
“I think we really wanted this as a team tonight,” Fangmeier said, registering that it was the seniors' last time on their home field.
“I was up and down,” the coach said of her own emotions watching it all unfold. “But going into the end, I felt really, really good about where we were at.”
Blair got to the end of each Tuesday game with a chance to win thanks, in part, to the work of freshmen pitchers Allyson Lynch and Taylor Larson. Lynch struck out five Rams during the first game, grinning from ear-to-ear each time she returned to the dugout after an inning-ending K.
Larson, meanwhile, made her varsity debut in the second game. Ralston scored runs, but Fangmeier said her pitcher set up the Bears' defense well in a tight ballgame against a game opponent.
“That was a completely different Ralston team,” Warrick said, referencing the first two times Blair played the Rams before Tuesday. “They were ready to battle for it.”
Fangmeier was in agreement.
“Ralston played so well. I was really impressed,” she said. “I think they're well-coached and, defensively, they made all the plays they needed to. And offensively, they hit really, really well.”
But Blair did enough at home to win the tournament. Hallie Lewis, Lina Scott and Samantha MacDonald hit homers, and a confident Warrick delivered the game-winner.
Bears sweep 2 to start
Before Tuesday's tight games, BHS was dominant on the first day of the B-2 Tournament.
The Bears outscored Ralston and Platteview by a combined 24-4 in just eighth innings during Monday's 2-0 showing. They first defeated the Rams 9-1 before routing the Trojans 15-3 in three innings.
Blair's 12-run second inning against Platteview was particularly impressive. Tory Villotta and Scott each hit grand slams, while Koch rocked a solo shot.
Villotta, a senior who plans to play college softball at Southwest Minnesota State, couldn't remember how many grand slams she's hit in her career.
“Not that many,” she said.
Scott, meanwhile, couldn't recall ever seeing two during the same inning.
“This is the first time, I think,” she said. “I've never seen two in one inning.”
Koch joked that she was disappointed her homer was worth just one run instead of four. The junior batted right after Scott's slam.
“She cleared the bases,” Koch said. “I was like, 'What the heck Lina?'”
Blair's Lyndsay Rahlfs, MacDonald, Lewis and Tessa Villotta also knocked in runs against the Trojans, while pinch runner Julia Saylor scored on an error.
Against Ralston, Scott hit her first home run of the day. MacDonald, Ashlyn McMillen, Lewis, Koch and Rahlfs also pushed across runs.
Tory Villotta, meanwhile, earned both Blair pitching wins in the circle.
“This is exactly what we wanted,” Scott said of the decisive 2-0 start to the postseason.