FORT DODGE — Wednesday’s Class 4A State Quarterfinal between No. 15 Perry and sixth-ranked Osklaoosa could not have started better for the visiting Jayettes.
Perry (24-13) had both Jo Diw and Sid Vancil reach base on a pair of infield errors to start the game, but a line-out, a pop-out and a strikeout left the runners stranded.
That alone might not have meant much, save that Oskaloosa starter Alexis Groet would retire 16 consecutive batters after Vancil reached, keeping the Jayettes at bay as the Indians did just enough to post a 3-1 victory.
Oskaloosa (28-7) advances to face No. 9 Fairfield (28-11) in today’s semifinals after the Trojans topped No. 14 Creston (24-12), 5-1, in their quarterfinal. The other semifinal pits top-ranked Carlisle (37-6) against No. 12 Boone (27-9) after the Wildcats crushed Charles City, 12-0, in five innings while the Toreadors whipped Heelan Catholic, 11-2, in their meeting.
Perry plays Creston at 12 p.m. in one consolation semifinal while Charles City (24-11) faces Heelan Catholic (26-11) in the 10 a.m. game. The seventh-place game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the fifth-place game for 4 p.m. All will be played on Yankee Field.
Groet received a lift in the bottom of the first when all-stater Aubrey Miller hit her second home run of the season to center field. Perry outfielder Alyssa Kruger had the ball in her sights but ran head-long into the fence as the ball dropped onto the first bleacher.
Kruger was shaken on the play but, after being attended to by trainers, remained in the contest.
The sophomore said she was concentrating so hard on the pursuit of the ball she lost her bearings as to the nearness of the fence.
“I didn’t realize it was that close to me until I ran into it,” Kruger said of the fence. “I think if I could have taken two more steps I would have caught it.”
Perry ace Emma Olejniczak pitched well but was undone by a two-run rally from the Indians in the bottom of the third.
Anna Jones reached second on an error with one out with Miller singling into left field. Miller stole second, and scored behind Jones when Alexis Westercamp singled up the middle for a 3-0 Oskaloosa lead.
Taylor Willis — running for Westercamp — and Alex Vroegh, who reached on a fielder’s choice, were on third and second, respectively, when the Indians ran themselves out of an even bigger inning.
Despite having left-handed hitting Ava Vande Wall batting, the Indians opted for a suicide squeeze bunt. Perry catcher Brooke Huntington pounced on the ball just in front of the plate and easily tagged out Willis, who broke for home on contact and who Huntington could easily see coming down the line. A line out to Vancil at second base ended the rally, but the damage — especially with the way Groet was pitching — was severe.
Jones and Miller each singled in the bottom of the fifth, but Olejniczak flipped home on a bouncer to the ring just in time for Huntington to tag out Jones, who was running from third base. Ground outs ended the inning, leaving Perry with the 3-0 hole.
Groet lost both the no-hitter and the shutout in the top of the sixth when Diw jacked a long home run — her sixth — to left-center with one out as Perry closed to within 3-1. Vancil — who had fouled off seven two-strike pitches before popping out in the third — followed by beating out an infield single, but Groet bore down and recorded a strikeout and a pop out to catcher Westercamp to snuff the rally.
Olejniczak worked a quick 1-2-3 sixth, but Groet induced a fly out to short, a ground out to second base and a fly out to right field to end the game.
Groet kept Perry batters off-balance throughout the game by throwing a very effective drop-change several times and working a rise ball the Jayettes could not help chasing.
“We knew she was going to throw a rise, but it was probably the best one we’ve seen all year,” Vancil said of the Indian ace. “Obviously I am upset about the loss, but hopefully we can come back, win the other side of the bracket and finish fifth.”
“We helped her out a little bit by not being as disciplined as we needed to be,” Perry head coach Tina Kenney said. “None of us are happy to have a loss, but we have two games still to play and I believe we are going to want to come out, play our kind of game both times and finish the season with a pair of wins.”
Olejncizak finished with six strikeouts and a walk while allowing six hits in six innings, with one of the three Indian runs unearned. She now has 289 strikeouts in 211.2 frames this season.
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