One way or another tonight in the championship in the Class 1 District 7 Tournament in Pilot Grove, the Bulldogs will be victorious.
Now the question is will it be the No. 1 New Franklin Lady Bulldogs or the No. 6 Harrisburg Lady Bulldogs.
In last night’s semifinal action, New Franklin overcame a slow start to beat fifth-seeded Bunceton 8-3 while Harrisburg rallied past Jamestown for a 8-5 victory.
New Franklin and Harrisburg will play for the championship tonight in Pilot Grove starting at 6 p.m.
As for the game last night against Bunceton, New Franklin head coach Ross Dowell said it took a while to get things going. “We had two big rallies and scored four runs in each inning with most of our runs coming with two outs,” Dowell said. “I thought we made some outstanding defensive plays behind our pitchers, but the main thing at this time of the year is to win and advance.”
The Lady Bulldogs will definitely advance. However, it took a little soul searching and timely hitting to get New Franklin over the hump while trailing Bunceton 2-0 after the third.
After battling back and forth for the first-two innings, the Lady Dragons took the early lead with two runs in the top-half of the third, all with one out, when Lizzy Maddex hit a double over the left fielder’s head and advanced to third on the single up the middle by Rachel Emde. Bunceton then caught a break by scoring both runners on a wild pitch to go up 2-0.
Unfortunately for Bunceton, they never led again after batting in the top-half of the fourth as New Franklin struck for four runs in the bottom-half of the inning to make it 4-0.
With two outs in the inning for the Lady Bulldogs, Megan Phillips and Cassie Armentrout picked up back-to-back walks. Then, after Sara Montgomery beat out an infield hit to score Phillips, Claire Monnig came back with a two strike two-RBI single to right to put New Franklin on top 3-2.
The Lady Bulldogs weren’t done yet, though, as Aislinn Himmelberg blooped a single over the shortstops head for a run to extend the lead to 4-2.
The Lady Dragons were never the same after that while hitting into a double play to end their half of the fifth.
Meanwhile, in the bottom-half of the inning, New Franklin tacked on four more runs in another wild inning.
With one out in the fifth, Valerie Schlotzhauer slapped a single to center and then advanced to second on the sacrifice bunt by Phillips. Then, after Armentrout walked for the third time in the game, Aly Hundley came back to reach on a dropped ball by the center fielder to score two runs to make it 6-2. Montgomery then beat out her second infield hit of the game to extend the lead to 7-2 while a wild throw to third brought in yet another run to push the lead to 8-2.
Page 2 of 3 - Bunceton didn’t go down without a fight, though. After a scoreless sixth, the Lady Dragons came back and tacked on one run in the top-half of the seventh when Morgan Wieland led off with a single just out of the shortstops reach and scored on the RBI-single up the middle by Lexus Chapman.
But that all ended when New Franklin pitcher Kalani Pihana came back and got Rachel Emde on a fielder’s choice and Sam Brandes on a ground out to third to end the ballgame.
Bunceton coach Rusty Parkhurst said this was a hard-fought closely contested game.
“We just had a couple plays we needed to make and unfortunately we didn’t,” Parkhurst said, “which failed to keep the game close. Our girls played well and never gave up through all the adversity we faced.”
Kalani Pihana picked up the win in the circle for New Franklin while Sam Brandes took the loss for Bunceton, who closed out the season at 14-8 overall.
Megan Phillips started the game for the Lady Bulldogs and pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out four. Pihana then came in and pitched 4 2/3 innings in relief for the win and surrendered just one run on five hits while striking out two.
For Bunceton, Brandes went the distance and allowed eight runs on seven hits and nine walks while striking out six.
As for the hitting in the game for New Franklin, Sara Montgomery and Claire Monnig each had two singles and two RBIs while Aislinn Himmelberg added two singles and one RBI and Valerie Schlotzhauer with one single.
For Bunceton, Lizzy Maddex went 2-for-4 with a single and a double while Rachel Emde, Sam Brandes, Deanne Emde, Morgan Wieland and Lexus Chapman with one single each.
In the second semifinal game, Jamestown led Harrisburg 5-0 after four. However it was all Harrisburg after that as the Lady Bulldogs rallied back with two in the fifth, four in the sixth and two in the seventh to go up 8-5. Meanwhile, in the bottom-half of the seventh, Jamestown rallied back with one to cut the lead to two.
Kyla Brown picked up the win in the circle for Harrisburg while Stephanie Birkmann took the loss for Jamestown. In seven innings, Brown gave up six runs on six hits and seven walks while striking out four batters. Birkmann, meanwhile, pitched all seven innings and allowed eight runs on 16 hits and one walk while striking out three.
Harrisburg also out-hit the Lady Eagles 16-6, with Karyssa Giboney going 4-for-4 with four singles and one RBI. Caitlin Atkins had one single, two triples and one RBI while Kyla Brown had two singles and one double and Baylee Hudson with three singles.
Page 3 of 3 - For Jamestown, Robyn Eschenbrenner went 2-for-4 with a single, double and one RBI while Mackenzie Strother added a single and a double and Stephanie Birkmann with two singles.