Ogden’s stellar softball season came to an end Friday.
A 4-1 loss to Earlham in the Class 2-A Regional semifinals left the Bulldogs with a final record of 22-8 – their most wins in more than a decade.
Their last victory came the previous Tuesday, with a tense 3-1 thriller over Woodward-Granger.
It was the third time Ogden had defeated the Hawks and moved coach Mike Moses’ squad past last season’s total of 21 wins.
“Even though we’ve beaten this team before, we can’t think it’s an easy win,” senior Ashton Boggess said. “We need to play our best.”
Sophomore pitcher Denali Loecker was near her best, holding Woodward-Granger to four hits while walking two and striking out six.
Loecker also hit a third-inning home run to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
“She’s been really good on both sides,” Boggess said. “She always comes through when she’s pitching and she has a really good bat.
“She’s helped us a lot this season.”
Loecker hit 16 homers this summer. She drove a pitch from the Hawks’ Elly Polich over the center-field fence 218 feet from home plate.
“It was supposed to be outside and I think she missed her spot,” Loecker said of Polich. “She threw toward the middle of the plate and I just hit it.”
The only doubt was whether the towering shot would carry far enough.
“I knew it was pretty high, so I didn’t know for sure,” Loecker said. “I still ran it out. I pretty much knew it was gone.”
That gave Loecker a cushion in the pitching circle and helped calm the Bulldogs.
“It just gives me leeway, like my defense is still behind me,” Loecker said. “It makes me more comfortable.”
Bogges scored Ogden’s final run after reaching on a single in the sixth inning and eventually coming home on a wild pitch.
“I just knew that two runs wasn’t enough,” Boggess said. “So, we needed to get three.”
Woodward-Granger got on the board in the seventh inning and put the tying run on second base, with two outs.
Loecker ended the threat by striking out her counterpart, Polich.
“I just needed to get a grounder or pop fly,” Loecker recalled. “I threw a couple rise balls and she swung and missed.
“I was just hoping my defense was behind me and they were.”
Ogden managed only three hits against Earlham, with the lone run coming on another homer by Loecker.
“We just want to make sure our bats keep going and play as a team,” Loecker said earlier in the week, “and making sure everyone is having a good game.”
The Bulldog batters were mostly baffled, although Faith Mohr collected a couple of singles.
Earlham jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning and went on to get nine hits off of Loecker, including three by Ali Boyle and two from Grace Voss.
The Cardinals advanced to the Regional championship having won 13 of their last 15 games. Ogden had won 16 of its previous 18.