DALLAS CENTER - After 4 ½ innings Ballard was on the cusp of qualifying for state, leading Dallas Center-Grimes by three runs in the Class 4A regional final game July 16.
The No. 8 Bombers held a 5-2 advantage over the No. 7 Fillies going into the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks in large part to a three-run double by Skylar Rigby in the top of the fourth.
Then everything fell apart.
DCG suddenly started pounding base hit after base hit in the bottom of the fifth. Ballard changed pitchers twice in the inning, bringing in Hailey Walzer for starter Maggie McCrady and then putting McCrady back in, but it made no difference.
By the time the inning was over, the Fillies had put eight runs on the board. They went on to prevail by a 12-6 score, leaving Ballard one win short of making state for the second time in three years.
“We got into the fifth and this was their third time through the lineup,” Ballard head coach Charlie Husak said. “Obviously they had some success against Maggie and timing her up. We didn’t have any answers that inning.”
Molly Cooney had the big hit of the fifth inning for DCG with a three-run double to give the Fillies a 6-5 lead. Kamryn O’Brien drove in the Fillies’ first run with a single, Maria Hendricks later added a two-run single and Elle Nelsen and Morgan Rosenbeck each knocked in a run.
Ballard continued to put up a fight after the rough inning.
The Bombers got a run in the top of the sixth when Abby Husak singled and Maggie Larson drove her home. But DCG answered with two more runs in its half of the sixth, and Ballard went down in order in the seventh to end the game.
Ballard finished 26-10. That is a clear step up from last year’s 20-17 mark.
“Our team has done amazing this season,” McCrady said. “I’m so proud of them.”
McCrady is just a freshman and this is her first season carrying the bulk of the pitching load after the other freshman starter, Matty Beerbower, was lost for the second half of the season with a torn rotator cuff. McCrady gave up nine runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and two walks in six innings.
Husak said he sees bright things ahead for McCrady, Beerbower and Walzer. Walzer is just a sophomore.
“Maggie has just done an excellent job of putting us in position to win,” Husak said. “Every one of the pitchers will put the time that’s needed to take that next step.”
Rigby was the spark plug for the offense. She was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk.
“I just tried to keep it in there for my teammates,” Rigby said. “They work so hard all year and just are amazing teammates. That’s what was going through my mind.”
Carley Wilson contributed an RBI double and a walk, Larson doubled once and Husak, Isabella Johnson and Molly Houge each delivered one hit for the Bombers. Karlee Ahrenholtz walked twice in her final game and Rachel Newell and Isabell Hobbs each drew one walk.
DCG will take a 24-14 record into the state tournament. Maria Hendricks homered and drove in four runs against Ballard and Erica Manning was the winning pitcher for the Fillies.
DCG 12, Ballard 6
B 001 311 0 - 6 8 0
DCG 020 082 X - 12 11 3
B: Maggie McCrady, Hailey Walzer (5), McCrady (5) and Molly Houge.
DCG: Erica Manning, Lani Gannon (3), Manning (4) and Molly Cooney.
2B: B - Skylar Rigby 2, Maggie Larson, Carley Wilson. DCG - Cooney, Morgan Rosenbeck.
HR: DCG - Maria Hendricks.