On a perfect summer day in Fort Dodge, the Iowa high school state softball tournament began its 2019 run and with it, the Dallas Center-Grimes softball team began its hopeful run towards a state championship.
The Fillies made their way onto the state tournament stage with a substate final victory over Ballard, and their reward was a first-round state match-up against third-seeded Charles City. Despite some early offense giving the Fillies a lead for the majority of the contest, a late-game rally by Charles City ended up downing DC-G by a 4-3 final.
The game actually began with a Charles City lead that was acquired during the very first inning of play. That lead wasn’t held very long as the Fillies stepped up to the plate in the top half of the second. The Fillies produced a pair of hits that equated to a pair of runs for the inning that officially gave the Fillies their first lead of the contest. Elle Nelsen and Maria Hendricks did the honors of driving in runs during the inning capturing their ninth and 17th RBI’s for the season respectively.
“That second inning was very strong for us,” said Fillie head coach Steve Schlafke. “As far as momentum that was a big momentum swing for us.”
The game continued to progress in favor of the Fillies, especially with a Haylee Hidlebaugh RBI single in the top of the fourth, which increased the DC-G lead to a 3-1 mark. It seemed like momentum was well in favor of Dallas Center-Grimes even with a one-run top of the sixth for Charles City to cut the Fillie lead down to 3-2.
Then came the treacherous seventh inning which saw things change for the worse for DC-G. After going six strong innings, Erica Manning took an exit in the bottom of the seventh after Charles City crowded the base paths. Last year’s pitching star Lani Gannon then entered the circle for the Fillies and took on the pitching duties. It was a tough situation for anyone to be in and with a pair of runners on the base paths, Charles City tied up the game on an RBI double. Following the double, the control of the strike zone seemed to be lost for Gannon inside the circle and the junior loaded the bases with a pair of walks. That brought senior Erica Manning back inside the circle but a bases-loaded walk ended up sealing DC-G’s fate with a loss.
“It seemed like they were starting to time up Erica well so I thought it was time to go to Lani there in the seventh,” said Schlafke. “Nine times out of ten Lani would be able to get us out of that kind of a jam but it just wasn’t meant to be. Erica did what she could in the seventh coming back but you’ve got to give Charles City credit, they were patient at the plate when in crunch time and it paid off.”
Ultimately senior Erica Manning put forth a pitching performance that could earn a win most nights going six strong innings of work, allowing just four runs while striking out two. Manning did end up giving up eleven hits in total.
“Erica, for the most part, had a strong outing today,” said Schlafke. “She did a good job of varying up her pitches, it just didn’t last as long as we’d like but regardless when you can hold a team like Charles City to four runs or less, you know you’ve done something special.”
Offensively, despite the early advantage, it was a light day hitting the ball for the Fillies who undershot their eight hits per game average by striking a mere four hits for the game. Two of those four hits belonged to Elle Nelsen who went 2-for-3 for the game with one run driven in.
“Elle had a very strong game for us, a performance that she’s given us through many games this season,” began Schlafke. “I was very pleased to see her continue to have such success on a big stage like this.”
In the end, the 3-1 advantage by the Fillies just wasn’t enough and DC-G ended up falling in their second straight state tournament opening-round game. The loss marked just the fourth state tournament opener the Fillies have lost in their nine total trips to the state tournament. The loss sends the Fillies into the consolation round, which will take place Wednesday, July 24 with first pitch set for 1 p.m.