Up 5-2 in the top of the seventh with Glenwood’s (26-9) toughest hitter at the plate, Dallas Center-Grimes (23-14) had a situation on its hands with two batters on base. One crack from Brielle Smith for her sixth home run of the season, the Fillies would have to score again to avoid extra innings at the very least.
DC-G pitcher Eric Manning sent it in over the plate and Smith ripped it over the fence, sending a moment of panic and awe over the crowd until it fell left of the post for a foul.
With the batter-pitcher duo rattled, Smith sent a grounder by third base to drive in a run, only cutting the deficit to 5-3. Two quick outs later, DC-G captured the win to advance to the Class 4A Region 4 championship game Tuesday against Ballard (26-9).
Entering the game with a two-game losing streak entering the first-round bye, DC-G’s win was desperately needed not only to stay alive in the playoffs but to right the ship that veered off course.
“It’s just survive and advance at this point anyway,” DC-G head coach Steve Schlafke said after the game. “Like I told them, ‘Maybe it didn’t look the prettiest but at the end of the day, we’re still going to plan on Tuesday. That’s what you do at this time of year.’”
While there were shining moments like Haylee Hidlebaugh’s solo shot in the sixth inning to jump to 5-2, the game took a lot of dirty work to get to that point.
Entering a tie 1-1 game in the second inning, the Fillies loaded the bases twice thanks to a series of quick singles, bunts, and walks to get Elle Nelsen and Kylie Merical in to take a 3-1 lead.
“We saw some things when we scouted that we thought we could bunt the ball, particularly to the right side and things like that,” Schlafke said about changing the team’s MO for the game to slowly chip at the scoreboard. “Also we’ve got some pretty good speed with our batters that are doing those type of things.”
Knowing the team has room to push further down the stretch to state, Schlafke added that the team’s capable of more and cleaning up for the toughest competition yet to come.
“I just felt like we were tentative,” he said. “It was almost like we were fearing losing rather than playing the game to win a little. We’re much better defensively than the way we played tonight. We just seemed like we were really tense.”
Overall, the defense committed three errors that helped get the Rams on base more often than DC-G would have liked. In between those errors, fielding choices like shortstop Kylie Merical throwing out a runner at first while Glenwood inched closer at 3-2 with third base scoring, pushed the game closer than desired.
But after those plays that threatened DC-G’s lead, someone usually came around to take a new step forward. During Merical’s next at-bat in the fifth inning, she tripled and ran in to erase the run that slipped by the Fillies’ fingers the prior inning. Regaining the two-run lead ultimately helped set up the game-clinching hit from Hidlebaugh, keeping the Rams just out of reach.
“Bottom line is our kids just want to win. They try hard. They’re good kids, they’re just passionate about playing and I think the hardest thing is trying to get them to relax,” Schlafke said. “So we need to take a breath.”
DC-G will take on Ballard at home next on Tuesday. The two met in Huxley the first week of the season with the Fillies taking down the Bombers 13-3. On Saturday, the Bombers flew past Winterset 12-0 in three innings.