NEW LONDON — "We aren't done yet" has been the mantra for the New London High School softball team this season.
And, no, the Tigers aren't done yet.
Down to their final out of the season, the Tigers battled back from a two-out deficit, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a wild, emotional, improbable 4-3 victory over North Mahaska in a Class 1A regional final on Monday night at Prottsman Field.
New London (20-9) advances to the state tournament for the fourth time in six years. The Tigers will play third-ranked Akron-Westfield (26-4) at 1 p.m. Monday at Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
North Mahaska, which was within an eyelash of advancing to its first state tournament since 2009, ends the season with a 21-9 record.
No, New London isn't done yet.
"Our thing is we say, 'We aren't done,'" New London senior leftfielder Carson McSorley said. "My freshman year when Jorgi Krieger hit a home run, that went through my mind. I knew that anything was possible."
"I had confidence in all of my teammates," senior pitcher Camryn Blint said. "Somehow we always come out with it. I had confidence that we would win."
"What a game," an exasperated New London head coach Duane Blint said. "We gave them a couple runs in the (sixth) inning when Alexa (Wenger) couldn't see the ball because of the sun. We gave them two and they gave us two and it's all fair. It just happened to be two when we needed four. We'll take it. It's why you play the game. We didn't play that well tonight, but we played well enough to win the softball game."
North Mahaska, which scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning on errors caused when New London first baseman Wenger twice missed throws on ground balls to third, was ready to begin the celebration.
Marah Hartrick, who drove in the Tigers' first run of the game, grounded out to open the bottom of the seventh. A series of bizarre, incredible plays followed in succession.
• Freshman Sofie Reighard kept the Tigers' hopes alive, legging out an infield single.
"It felt really good to do something good for my team," said Reighard, who had struck out in her two previous at-bats. "Coach said to have confidence and swing away. We had to get our confidence up and keep going. We still had a shot."
"That was huge," McSorley said. "I was really nervous, but she ran it out and got on. That was huge because we needed as many people on as we could."
"We needed somebody to start the inning for us," Camryn Blint said. "For her to do that for us, that really got everybody pumped up."
• McSorley ripped a first-pitch change-up from junior Emma Duecore up the middle, putting runners on first and second.
"I just had a feeling when I came up to bat she was going to throw me a change-up and I had to get on," McSorley said.
• Camryn Blint laid down a bunt, which she beat out for a hit. When third baseman Madison McKay's throw got by first baseman Alex Knockel, Reighard raced home, while McSorley and Blint moved to third and second, respectively.
"I had confidence that Carson would get on. I knew I would get a hit to get on," Camryn Blint said. "I was just looking to score."
"I told Camryn, 'Let's bunt,'" Coach Blint said. "Let's get the tying run to second base."
• Sophomore Laney Loyd, the Tigers' top hitter late in the season, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, had the game on her bat. Coach Blint opted for a suicide squeeze bunt.
Loyd, after taking a strike, popped up the bunt. Duecore raced toward the third-baseline, dove headfirst and made a sensational catch. McSorley was already two-thirds of the way home and looked to be dead to rights for a double play to end the game.
"Right before that I looked at Coach and said, 'Are we going to do a squeeze?' He said. 'Not yet,'" McSorley said. "He said, 'Make sure it's down. You have to get back if it's not down.'"
"I thought Carson was going to get out," Camryn Blint said. "Then I saw them overthrow it, so I was just thinking, 'Score.'"
McSorley, a seven-time state placewinner in track, raced back to third, diving into the bag. But Duecore's throw to third went wide of McKay, allowing McSorley to get up and race home with the tying run. And when the ball trickled past leftfielder Maci DeJong, Camryn Blint was right behind McSorley with the winning run.
"Those are hard to tell if they are going to dive and catch it or it's going to go off their glove. When I saw she caught it, I was more than halfway down. I knew I had to dive back," McSorley said. "I saw it go past her. All I hear was Coach screaming, 'Go!' I don't have to look because I listen to Coach on the bases. I was running as fast as I could."
"It's so exciting," Camryn Blint said. "Scoring the winning run is the best feeling ever."
"She popped it up and I'm screaming at Carson to get back and she misses the third baseman and Carson scores," Coach Blint said. "I'm sending Camryn home regardless. I thought, 'Now we're going extras.' Camryn scores and we win it. What a crazy finish."
The Tigers aren't done yet.
"My first reaction was to jump," Reighard said. "We started to really believe when we played Montezuma and we beat them. We knew we were going to be playing our butts off no matter what."
"It's awesome," McSorley said. "The first practice we had on the field, I walked into practice and said, 'We're out for blood this year, Coach. We're going to get it. We took a year off from going to state. Three out of four years, that's pretty amazing. I'm really excited to go back up to Fort Dodge."
"This was our goal — to make it to the state tournament. We all have confidence in ourselves," Camryn Blint said. "We did it."
"We snuck in. We'll probably be an eight seed, but that's alright," Coach Blint said. "This is the fourth time in the last six years we've been to state. The seniors know what it's all about. We'll get these younger kinds pumped up now. The pressure is off. We've made the state tournament. Now we can just go up there and have fun."
WP — Sydni Coleman (7-5). LP — Emma Duecore (14-4). Leading hitters — North Mahaska: Mallory Klinker 2-3. New London: Carson McSorley 2-4. RBI — North Mahaska: Klinker 2; New London: Marah Hartrick 1.
Records: North Mahaska 21-9, New London 20-9.