WOODWARD — All season long, the Woodward-Granger softball team has shown a penchant for the dramatic. Come-from-behind victories — some of them rallies from several runs down — dotted the record, but living dangerously caught up to the Hawks Wednesday, as South Hamilton bounced the hosts with a 5-4 win in eight innings.
The visiting Hawks (19-11) held a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the seventh and quickly recorded two outs before the host Hawks (20-13) mounted a frantic comeback in their Class 2A Region 5 Quarterfinal.
Riley Jamison’s double started the surge, with Dalaney Bice doubling to make the score 4-2. Bree Lesch — who had struck out in each of her first three at-bats — rose to the occasion with a RBI-single to score courtesy runner Katelyn Bandstra. Lesch took second on the throw to the plate and scored moments later when Maggi Mallon produced a game-tying single.
South Hamilton appeared rattled in the field, but showed few nerves at the plate with their own two-out rally, begun by single from Katie Johnson. Alissa Moss doubled in the gap to make it 5-4, with a walk putting runners on first and second before a ground out limited the damage.
W-G refused to go away, with Miranda Aunspach walking to start the bottom of the eighth and moving to second on Kendra Husmann’s sacrifice bunt. A foul pop out kept the tying run 120-feet away, with Carli Major sending a hard-hit ball two-hopper into the gap on the right side of the infield, but second baseman Brittany Spindler made a fine play to her left to rob Major and end the season for the hosts.
South Hamilton advances to face host Pella Christian Friday. The Eagles were 11-4 winners over Madrid Wednesday.
“We’ve always been a late-scoring team and most of the time we pull it off, but that isn’t always going to happen and tonight it didn’t,” an emotional Bice said afterward. “We needed to come out and from the first pitch do what we do in 5-6-7 but we didn’t.”
Bice, Meagan Bandstra and Carli Major were the only seniors on the team. She finishes her career fifth on Iowa’s all-time career home run list with 53 despite missing all but three at-bats in her junior year to a knee injury and will continue her softball career at William Penn University.
“I think what hurts the most is knowing I have to leave my team and go on to something different because they have had my back for five years,” she said.
The guests got to Bice for a run in the first after consecutive walks started the game. The first of several strong defensive plays by third baseman Kaycee Major resulted in a force out at third, with a running catch from left fielder Kendra Husmann the second out, but Chloe Barkema’s seeing-eye single through the middle plated Ady Wintermote for a 1-0 lead.
A lead-off walk in the second went unrewarded, with Major making a stabbing stop and firing to second base for a force out before center fielder Lesch made a catch and threw to Meagan Bandstra at first for a double play.
A base-running blunder hurt the hosts in the second, with Husmann picked off third base, and with Kaycee Major also out trying to advance to third on the play.
The visitors scored an unearned run in the third, then tacked on two critical runs in the fifth, with consecutive doubles from Breanna Diersen and Barkema doing the damage after Wintermote started the rally by drawing a walk.
That was all for Bice, who was replaced to start the sixth by Jamison. A long running snag from Husmann against the fence in foul territory and the quick snaring of a come-backer to the ring by Jamison kept South Hamilton from adding to their lead in the sixth, with a long running catch of a deep fly in right by Carli Major ending a 1-2-3 seventh.
By then the hosts had turned up the pressure, which began — unsurprisingly — with two outs in the fifth. Carli Major singled, with Jamison hitting the first of her two doubles. Bice singled in a run before a strikeout ended the rally.
Bandstra had singled and was stranded in the sixth, leading to the dramatics of the seventh and eight innings.
“No matter the score we were going to keep fighting and keep playing hard, because that is Hawk softball,” Bandstra said. “You make so many memories playing five years and the teammates you have are always going to be family, whether they have already graduated or are underclassmen. You find friends that become life-long friends when you play, and the memories I have and the lessons I have learned are things that I know are going to be with me for the rest of my life.”
Wintermote was the biggest thorn in W-G’s side, drawing three walks — from which she scored three runs — while Barkema’s three RBI’s proved fatal.
Freshman hurler Taylor Volkmann yielded four runs on nine hits and two walks but struck out 12 in earning the win.
Bice went five frames, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks with one strikeout. Jamison suffered the loss after surrendering a run on two hits and two walks in three innings of relief.
Carli Major had two hits, Jamison two doubles and Bice a single and a double to lead the W-G offense. Meagan Bandstra, Lesch and Mallon had the other hits, with Bice driving in two runs and Lesch and Mallon one apiece.
Head coach Noah Bean expressed his pride in the moxie shown by his team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how the girls fought tonight,” he said. “The never got down, never lowered their heads, and even when they were down 4-0 they got off the mat and came back to tie the game. They can be proud of how hard they played — I certainly am.”
Meagan Bandstra, Carli Major and Bice were all eighth graders when legendary coach Phil Creese coached his final season, but Major said the effect the late coach had on the team would endure.
“I still think this is Phil’s program and still his legacy,” she said. “The young girls really looked up to him, so even though we three are leaving, yes, to an extent it is a new era, but I still think his impact will be here. The girls next year will do a good job and play hard, Hawk softball and they will carry Phil’s legacy on.”
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