Comets whip Norse in regional quarterfinals

ALLEMAN – If only the North Polk softball team could have its second inning back versus Prairie City-Monroe in the Class 2A regional semifinals.

The Comets gave up six runs in the bottom of the second and that proved the big difference maker in an otherwise even contest as North Polk’s season came to an end with a 9-4 setback.

After one inning the game was knotted at 1-1.

Mallory McDonald singled with one out, moved to second on a ground out by Macy Gill and scored on a single from Makayla Burt in the top of the first for North Polk. PCM answered when Kelsey Townsend reached on an error and Abigail Gilson ripped a double to the gap in left-center, driving her home.

North Polk was unable to take advantage of a two-out walk by Reilly Franzen, going scoreless in the top of the second. Then the floodgates opened in the bottom of the inning.

Molly Vignovich was safe on North Polk’s second leadoff error in a row to start the PCM half of the second. Kaitlyn Wilkie followed by reaching on a bunt single and Jennafer Uitermarkt was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Makenna Van Veen drove in PCM’s first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly and another Mustang run came home on the Comets’ second error of the inning. Townsend came up with an RBI single to put PCM up 4-1, and after Shelby Palm reached on an infield hit, Gilson smacked a three-run home run over the fence in right field.

"We made a couple errors and they had a couple hits in the infield and then the kid came up and put one out," North Polk head coach Rick Dillinger said. "That’s softball."

North Polk pitcher Rebecca Sieve struck out Payge Edwards and forced Kayla Jennings to ground out to get out of the inning.

The Comets were unable to score in the top of the third, but Sieve retired the Mustangs in order in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the fourth North Polk started to make a little bit of a comeback. Sieve reached on a dropped fly ball and two batters later, Carly Madson hit an RBI single for the Comets.

Reilly Franzen and Audrey Ley followed Madson to make it three consecutive singles for North Polk in the inning, with Ley knocking in another Comet run.

After Sieve worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth, North Polk closed within 7-4 in the fifth as McDonald hit a leadoff double and scored on a single from Burt.

But that’s as close as the Comets would get.

PCM plated two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth to put a halt to North Polk’s momentum. Mustang pitcher Kayla Jennings then retired the Comets in order in each of the final two innings to end the Comets’ season.

"They didn’t quit," Dillinger said. "They came back and made a ball game of it for awhile, but it wasn’t our night."

It was the final game in Dillinger’s legendary career as he is retiring. The Comet coach said his final team was a fun one to coach as North Polk showed improvement over the past two seasons, finishing 19-11 after going 20-16 last year and 14-22 two years ago.

"We came a long way with this group," Dillinger said. "I’m pretty proud of them."

Sieve took the loss after pitching all seven innings. She gave up nine hits and no walks and struck out four.

McDonald finished with two hits in the final game of her career. Burt also collected a pair of hits and Madson, Franzen and Ley picked up one apiece.

PCM improved to 21-14. Jennings earned the win after recording two strikeouts and one walk in seven innings.

Gilson went 2-for-4 with four RBI, Townsend was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, Palm went 2-for-3 with a double and a run, Vignovich scored twice and Van Veen knocked in two runs for the Mustangs.

PCM 9, North Polk 4

NP 100 210 0 – 4 7 3

PCM 160 020 X – 9 9 1

NP: Rebecca Sieve and Makayla Burt

PCM: Kayla Jennings and Abigail Gilson

WP: Jennings

LP: Sieve

2B: NP – Mallory McDonald; PCM – Gilson, Shelby Palm

HR: PCM – Gilson

ALLEMAN – A big gut-check in the fourth inning sparked North Polk to an 11-5 victory over Roland-Story in the Class 2A regional quarterfinals July 9 in Alleman.

North Polk, playing as the road team, led 4-3 going into the bottom of the fourth inning. After North Polk scored four times in the second, Roland-Story plated three runs in the third and the Norse were poised for a huge inning in the fourth.

Maddie Schmitt led off with an infield single, Ena Moats reached on an error and Brooke Staker was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs for Roland-Story. Bryce Holmgren then ripped an RBI single to left to tie the score and keep the bases loaded for the Norse.

It appeared North Polk was in danger of giving up several more runs before the Roland-Story half of the inning came to a close. But pitcher Rebecca Sieve and the Comet defense buckled down to get two big outs without any further damage done.

Sieve forced Jesslyn Coghlan to hit a grounder to Lilly Lomica at shortstop and Lomica threw home for a big force out to keep the score tied with one out. Sieve followed that big out by fielding a grounder by Schyler Polaski and getting another force at home for the second out.

The Comet pitcher wasn’t able to keep Roland-Story from taking the lead as Alexa Whipple hit an RBI single with two outs. But North Polk got Whipple out at second for the final out to prevent the Norse from really doing damage in the fourth.

After preventing disaster from happening, North Polk loosened up and it paid off in a big way in the top of the fifth. The Comets scored five runs in their half of the inning to take a 9-5 lead and in the bottom half, Sieve held Roland-Story to just one base runner to keep the momentum on her team’s side.

"Once we all get together and calm each other down, that’s when you see things swing back around for us," Sieve said. "When they get a few we always get tense, but the minute you make one person laugh it’s contagious and we’ll calm down and pick it up from there."

In the North Polk half of the fifth, Macy Gill and Makayla Burt hit back-to-back singles to put runners on second and third with no outs. Sieve then executed a great bunt and Gill was safe at home on a force play to tie the score with runners still on second and third and no outs.

The bunt game came through big again when senior Brandi Rose stepped to the plate for the Comets. North Polk head coach Rick Dillinger called for a squeeze play and Rose did her job to perfection – reaching up above her head to make contact with a high pitch from Holmgren.

Rose’s bunt went down the first base line and Holmgren picked it up just before it reached the line to make it a fair ball. Rose was safe on the play and courtesy runner Rebecca Rimathe scored to give North Polk a 6-5 lead.

"We work on bunts everyday in practice, and when he says squeeze you have to get the bunt down, otherwise our girl on third is going to be out to lunch," Rose said. "I knew I had to get this down and once it was way out there I was like OK, reach! I watched it go down the line and thought ‘please stay fair, please stay fair!"’

After Carly Madson walked to load the bases and two more Comet runs scored on wild pitches, Norse starting pitcher Erin Nuetzman was brought back in to replace Holmgren on the mound. Reilly Franzen then drove in the fifth and final North Polk run of the inning on a ground out.

The sixth inning saw things continue to go North Polk’s way.

The Comets added two more runs, thanks again to the bunt game as Rose and Madson both bunted in a run. Burt hit a double and Sieve added a single for North Polk in the top of the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth Sieve retired Roland-Story in order with three-straight groundouts. North Polk failed to score in the top of the seventh, but Sieve worked around a one-out error to keep Roland-Story off the scoreboard and wrap-up the win to put North Polk in the regional semifinals.

"It feels amazing," Rose said. "We as seniors have not made it to state. Those four years Sammy (Snygg) and those girls got to state, but in their fifth year we lost in the regional finals. We really want to get back."

North Polk finished with 11 hits. Sieve, Burt and Audrey Ley each had two hits and Franzen, Gill, Lomica, McDonald and Rose finished with one apiece.

Ley and Rose both drove in two runs and Franzen, Lomica, Madson, McDonald and Sieve each knocked in one. Courtesy runner Bekah Ward scored three times, Rimathe and Madson crossed the plate two times apiece and Franzen, Gill, Ley and Rose each scored once.

Sieve gave up four earned runs on eight hits and she had four walks and one strikeout in seven innings to earn the win. Nuetzman took the loss for the Norse after allowing eight runs – three earned – with three walks and one strikeout in seven innings and Holmgren gave up three earned runs.

Holmgren went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and two runs and RBI apiece and Whipple was 2-for-4 with two RBI to pace Roland-Story offensively. The Norse finished the season at 14-15.

North Polk 11, Roland-Story 5

NP 040 052 0 – 11 11 3

R-S 003 200 0 – 5 8 2

NP: Rebecca Sieve and Makayla Burt

R-S: Erin Nuetzman, Bryce Holmgren (5), Nuetzman (5) and Brooke Staker

WP: Sieve

LP: Nuetzman

2B: NP – Burt; R-S – Holmgren