FORT DODGE - A ’take no prisoners’ approach has paid off for Ballard at the state softball tournament.
The No. 4 Bombers advanced to the Class 4A state championship game by whipping No. 14 Charles City, 6-1, in the semifinals Thursday on Diamond 2 at the Rogers Sports Complex.
Ballard (35-5) jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, scoring four times in the top of the second, on its way to tying the school record for wins in a season set during its 2012 championship run.
“I was talking to Hobbzie (Isabell Hobbs) today and some other girls about just how at the beginning of the season we weren’t even ranked and we weren’t on anybody’s radar or anything,” Ballard senior right fielder Jenna Moody said. “Now we’re here. That’s cool.”
The game plan for Ballard was the same as it’s 11-5 quarterfinal win over Carlisle on Tuesday — attack, attack, attack. The Bombers took advantage of wild pitches and passed balls with quick feet on the base paths to take control of the game in the first two innings.
“We don’t want them to get conservative — we stayed aggressive, we stayed who we are,” Ballard head softball coach Charlie Husak said. “We practiced hard all and played hard all year. We’re going to stay with that and the girls know it.”
Skylar Rigby set the tone for Ballard in the top of the first inning. Rigby drew a leadoff walk, took second on a wild pitch and scored after Charles City was called for interference when Rigby rounded third and headed home.
“Just trusting in ourselves, being confident and knowing we can do this,” Rigby said of the team’s attitude coming into the game. “This is just another game for us.”
In the second inning, Hannah Elliott and Isabella Johnson each reached on an infield hit. Elliott scored on a passed ball and Moody drove in Johnson with a bunt single.
Rigby and Newell also reached base and Moody and Rigby each eventually made their way home on a wild pitch to put Ballard up 5-0.
Charles City (33-7) scored what turned out to be its only run in the bottom of the second when Sara Martin connected for a solo home run to lead off the inning.
From there, the pitching and defense took over for both teams.
Ballard struggled to produce with runners on following the second inning, leaving the bases loaded twice and stranding 10 runners for the game. But the Bombers did plate one more run when Moody came up with a bloop single, moved to second on a bunt by Rachel Newell, took third on a passed ball and scored on another wild pitch.
“It felt good to step up for my team and pass the bat on,” Moody said.
Moody ended up 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. She has been an unsung hero for a young Ballard team featuring only one other senior in pitcher Abby Carlin.
“Jenna is our mother hen,” Husak said. “She has accepted a role she’s been given and embraced it. Because she did, she’s an example of the culture and what we’re trying to do here. She’ll always be an example to every kid that comes through my program of ‘hey, look at this kid.’ We love her.”
Carlin also came up big in the win over Charles City.
Carlin worked around the Comets having runners on the corners with one out in the bottom of the fourth. In the seventh, she shook off a leadoff double by Shantel VanHauen by following it up with two strikeouts and then overcame a Bomber error to get the final out without any more damage done to end the game.
Carlin ended up with eight strikeouts and no walks and she only gave up five hits. She said that just as in the Carlisle game, the early lead helped her performance against the Comets.
“Whenever we can get to a big lead, it’s always beneficial because it gives us a cushion and then I feel we kind of relax,” Carlin “We still play hard, but we play a little looser when we have the lead.”
Newell and Hobbs each joined Moody in picking up two hits for Ballard. Rigby went 1-for-3 with two runs and Elliott and Johnson finished with one single and run apiece.
Samantha Heyer gave up five earned runs with six strikeouts and four walks as the losing pitcher for Charles City. Martin VanHauen, Ciana Sonberg, Tayler Schmidt and Lisabeth Fiser each had one hit for the Comets.
Ballard 6, Charles City 1
B 140 001 0 - 6 9 2
CC 010 000 0 - 1 5 1
B: Abby Carlin and Skylar Rigby.
CC: Samantha Heyer and Ciana Sonberg.
2B: CC - Shantel VanHauen.
HR: CC - Sara Martin.