FORT DODGE - It wasn’t her first option or even her second, but Collins-Maxwell catcher Hannah Caple sure made it count on the third try during her at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning against AGWSR in the Class 1A championship game of the state softball tournament Thursday.
Caple went up to bat in the bottom of the seventh with runners on the corners and one out in a scoreless tie. Collins-Maxwell just had a golden opportunity slip away when leadoff hitter Alexis Houge was thrown out at home trying to score on a grounder by her older sister Mikayla.
Camp eventually made her way to third and courtesy runner Trinity Stover stood on second when Caple made her way into the batter’s box.
Collins-Maxwell head softball coach Troy Houge gave Caple the option of going for a suicide squeeze or swinging away and she chose the former, but bunted the ball foul. On her next swing, Caple was asked to do a slug and she foul-tipped the ball.
Down to her last strike, Caple opted to swing away on the next pitch by AGWSR’s Taryan Barrick. Caple put the bat square on the ball and sent it to the first base side of the field.
The ball made its way to the outfield, enabling Camp to easily slide home to give her team a state title in its first year as a program with a dramatic 1-0 victory.
“It was kind of surreal,” Caple said. “I didn’t even know when I hit it. I was like, oh! Then it landed and I was jumping for joy. It was awesome.”
Camp made a bead for home as soon as the ball made contact.
“When Hannah hit it I was so I was so thankful she hit it to that side because I sprinted as hard as I could right to home,” Camp said. “I was so excited — I was just ready to go.”
Meanwhile, in her euphoric state, Caple almost didn’t make it to first.
“I got half way there and I was jumping,” Caple said. “Coach B (Jean Birchmier) was like, get to the bag and I was like, ‘oh yeah!”’
Her teammates made sure she wasn’t alone in celebrating.
“I was in the dugout and a few people were in front of me on the gate,” Mikayla Houge said. “I was like — go, go, go, get out of my way! Once I got out there I ran to her and I hugged her. I knew she had been on the ball all day, so I knew that she’d come through for us.”
The Houge sisters had been a huge focal point for other teams all season. But the final sequence of the title game showed Collins-Maxwell was a lot more than those two players, with Caple and Camp coming up huge.
“I knew we still had a great shot at getting it even when they called Alexis out at home,” Troy Houge said. “Our motto all year was play your game and that’s what they did. They never let anything rattle them, they just went out and played. They trusted each other. they believed in each other all year. If one person didn’t get done, somebody else got it done. It wasn’t one person doing it, it was the whole team.”
Collins-Maxwell prevailed despite not getting a runner on base until the seventh inning. AGWSR pitcher Taryan Barrick had a perfect game going with 10 strikeouts until Alexis led off the seventh with a single.
“It took a little longer than we had hoped, but I got on and I just knew it was the inning we were going to score,” Alexis said. “We were going to get the run across.”
Mikayla kept her team in the game against a potent AGWSR offense that entered the game having scored 240 times over 35 contests.
In the top of the second, AGWSR had runners on second and third with no outs after Makenna Kuper was hit by a pitch and Ali Gerbracht reached on an error. But Mikayla mowed down the next two batters on strikes and then forced Josie Winterberg to fly out to Alexis at shortstop.
AGWSR threatened again in the fifth when Alyssa Hames hit a leadoff single and Kuper was intentionally walked with two outs. But Mikayla retired Gerbracht on strikes to keep the game scoreless.
“That’s honestly where I know I have to bear down,” Mikayla said. “That’s where I’m best, because I know I can’t let them score and it helps me focus more on hitting my spots and moving it around.”
Mikayla finished the championship game with 13 strikeouts against just one hit and two walks allowed. She hurled a shutout in all three state tournament games, totalling 37 strikeouts along the way to earn 1A all-tournament captain honors.
Alexis and Caple were also named to the all-tournament team.
After splitting with Baxter at the end of last season, the championship was a fitting capper to an amazing 30-1 season by Collins-Maxwell. The players and coaches went through a lot of adversity with the split, but it brought the Collins and Maxwell communities closer together and they were all rewarded in a big way on Thursday.
“The very middle (of the bleachers) and the whole third-base side was all Spartans,” Troy Houge said. “We had such great support all the way through, so for us to do that our first year and give it to the community with all the support they gave us was just unbelievable.”
Alyssa Hames had AGWSR’s only hit off Mikayla. The Cougars ended with a 28-8 record.
Collins-Maxwell 1, AGWSR 0
AGWSR 000 000 0 - 0 1 1
CM 000 000 1 - 1 3 1
AGWSR: Taryan Barrick and Ali Gerbracht.
CM: Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple.