Long ball hurts Nighthawks in round one

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley0-4-0-1-0-0-16

Albia1-4-0-3-0-1-X9

FORT DODGE-On paper the first round of the Class 3A state softball tournament had the makings of being a pitcher’s dual between Kaitlyn Van Der Zwaag of second seeded Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and Jena Lawrence of seventh seeded Albia.

But it proved to be an offensive explosion for both teams and, unfortunately for the Nighthawks, the Blue Demons had more power with three home runs and sent the Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley into the consolation bracket with a 9-6 defeat Tuesday, July 18 in the quarterfinal round.

Van Der Zwaag and Lawrence came into this contest as two of the best pitchers in the state in Class 3A with the Nighthawk holding a 0.93 ERA and Albia’s freshman pitcher in Lawrence holding a 1.79 ERA. But the Blue Demons have been familiar with the long ball for most of the season, hitting 26 home runs coming into the game, and led off the bottom of the first with a solo shot from Hannah Isley.

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley had a quick response in the top of the second, rallying for four runs. Van Der Zwaag led off the frame with a walk before Charli Bomgaars came in to pinch run. Keely Swanson then got the sign to bunt, but the pitcher misplayed the ball and the Nighthawks had runners on second and first with no outs, before a slow roller to shortstop resulted in an infield single and a bases-loaded situation.

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley did not waste time to get their first run as Bomgaars scored on an error by the Blue Devils’ second baseman that also kept the bases loaded. Following a swinging strikeout, a fielder’s choice from third to first scored Keely Swanson and put two runners into scoring position. Those runners crossed the plate on a two-run double off the center field wall by Taylor Richter.

But the Albia bats responded in kind in the bottom of the second with four runs and the Blue Devils retook the lead at 5-4. Following a leadoff walk, Rylee Leshen launched a high fly ball that sailed over the left field fence for a 2-run home run. The Nighthawks then got two quick outs before an error, a line drive single into center field and a groundball single past third base accounted for the final two runs.

Following a scoreless third frame, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley notched one run on the top of the fourth off a one-run single by Alexis Mousel, but the Blue Devils got the run back and then some in the bottom of the fourth. Albia had runners on first and third with two outs before Lawrence laced a one-run double and Kenndy Schroeder finished off the scoring with a two-run single into center.

Following a scoreless fifth frame the Blue Devils notched an insurance run on the second solo homer of the game by Isley. The Nighthawks then had a decent start in the top of the seventh with a leadoff walk by Sammy Blum and then moving to second on a fielder’s choice play from third base to first base. Van Der Zwaag promptly sent her home on a ground ball single through the hole between third base and shortstop, but a 6-4-3 double play ended the game.

Mousel ended up being the top hitter in this game with two hits and one RBI. Taylor Richter had one hit and two RBIs. Van Der Zwaag had one hit and one RBI. Joanne Luevano had one hit and two runs. Halbur had one hit, one run and one RBI. Erika Pottebaum had one RBI as a pinch hitter. Blum scored once.

“I think we had good at-bats. We had a lot of good hits. Some of them were right at people, so we couldn’t really get the key hits,” Mousel said. “Our coach (Sara Friedrichsen) just kind of told us to wait for our pitch, see it better by getting deep into the count and I feel like she (Lawrence) struggled more as she get deeper into the count.”

But in the end the Albia offense proved to be a bit better. Van Der Zwaag was on the pitching rubber and threw six innings with eight hits, nine runs of which seven were earned, three walks and four strikeouts.

Mousel, who is the catcher for Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, said it was tough to find the right pitch to throw to the Albia hitters.

“It was tough to pitch to Albia. They were a very good hitting team and they were hitting outside, inside and everywhere,” she said. “We tried a little off-speed and that worked a little bit, but it was very hard. They are a very good team.”

After finishing seventh two years ago and taking fourth last season, the Nighthawks fell short of their ultimate goal of at least a second-place finish this season, but Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley still left the game with its heads held high.

“That easily could have been a semi-final game right there. I’m sorry to say that, but it could have been and you are playing against the top eight (teams) in the state when you are down here,” Friedrichsen said. “There are also a lot of teams that wish they could have been down here in this situation and you have to take it one game at a time when you are down here. You can’t look past anybody and we didn’t.”

The defeat sent the Nighthawks into the consolation semi-final Wednesday, July 19, with Siouxland Conference rival Sioux Center, who fell to Mount Vernon 11-6 also on Tuesday, July 17.

Four errors spell defeat for Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley1-0-1-0-0-3-X5

Sioux Center1-3-1-0-0-1-X6

FORT DODGE-It was a matchup most speculated would be a state semi-final game, but Wednesday, July 19, Class 3A second-ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and Class 3A third-ranked Sioux Center met for the third time this season in a state consolation semi-final game and the Warriors walked off with a 6-5 victory.

Coming into this game, the Nighthawks were defeated 9-6 by a hot Albia team Tuesday, July 18, after the Lady Dees made the state tournament on an 11-3 upset of Solon. Sioux Center meanwhile fell to Mount Vernon 11-5.

The Sioux County rivals wanted to end the season series up 2-1 after splitting two games as part of the Siouxland Conference. The Warriors won the first game 4-1 June 9, before Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley took the second game June 30 by a 2-1 score.

The state stage saw a little more offense for the rubber match, especially right away in the first inning as each team scored once. The Nighthawks were the away team and got first at-bats. Following a strikeout, Sammy Blum got on base with a walk and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Cassie Van Beek. That brought up Kaitlyn Van Der Zwaag and she laced a line drive double that bounced off the left field wall to send Blum home. The Warriors began the bottom half of the first with Camryn Cleveringa getting all the way to second base as the ball took an odd bounce off the third baseman’s glove and rolled into foul ground, resulting in the first of four errors for the Nighthawks. Jessica Harald quickly made Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley pay by hitting a soft liner just over the head of second baseman, Taylor Richter, to tie the game.

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley went down in order in the top of the second before Sioux Center took the lead with three runs in the bottom half. The Warriors got a walk, an infield single to third base and a bunt single just in front of home plate, resulting in a bases-loaded situation with two outs. Shayla Post then ripped a two-run single into center field. Harald and Post both moved onto second and third after an attempted throw to home plate. Following a walk to reload the bases, a wild pitch allowed Harald to score the third and final run of the inning.

The Nighthawks countered with one run in the top of the third. Alexis Mousel hit a slow roller to third base, but used her wheels to beat the play at first for an infield single. After Lizzy Blum came in to courtesy run, Brianna Kleinwolterink hit a soft liner that fell softy in front of the Sioux Center left fielder for a single and put runners on first and second with no outs. Richter got the sign to bunt and she got the job done, moving Lizzy Blum and Kleinwolterink onto second and third with only one out. Sammy Blum then got the run home with a slow liner that just got over the leaping second baseman and into left field, scoring Lizzy Blum. Sammy Blum and Kleinwolterink ended up at second and third following a throw home on the single. The Nighthawks had a chance to do some more damage after a walk by Cassie Van Beek loaded the bases with one out, but an infield popup to shortstop on one pitch and a soft flyout to center field after two pitches ended the inning with Sioux Center ahead 4-2.

The Warriors quickly got that run back in the bottom half. Hannah Dykshorn began the inning with a slow roller to shortstop for an infield single and moved to second base on a wild pitch. Following a fielder’s choice play that moved Dykshorn to third base, Dykshorn came home on a sacrifice fly ball to center field to make the score 5-2.

The next two stanzas went scoreless for both teams, before Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley rallied for three runs in what was the final inning of the game due to the one-hour-30-minunte time limit in consolation games. Van Beek began the frame with a line drive single into left field, before Van Der Zwaag lofted a bomb over the center field wall for a two-run home run. Pinch hitter Erika Pottebaum kept the rally going with a line-drive single into the left center field gap. Charli Bomgaars came in to pinch run before a strikeout and a fielder’s choice play moved Bomgaars to second base with two outs. The error by the Warriors’ second baseman allowed Bomgaars to score the game-tying run.

Van Der Zwaag said she felt the comeback was on, even before the inning began.

“We were at a point in our lineup that we knew we could do it. It was just like our Spirit Lake game (in the regional final) and I knew we could do it,” she said.

The final frame began with an overthrow by the Nighthawks’ shortstop, putting a runner on first base with no outs. Following a strikeout, Harald laced a single into right field to put runners on first and second. Following a runner’s interference call on a collision with the shortstop and a walk to load the bases, Sioux Center walked off with the win on a wild pitch.

Despite the four errors on defense, coach Sara Friedrichsen noted her team’s at-bats could have been better. Sammy Blum finished the game with one hit, one run and one RBI. Van Beek had one hit, one run and a walk. Van Der Zwaag had two hits, one run, three RBIs and her home run. Pottebaum and Kleinwolterink each had a hit with Bomgaars and Blum both scoring as courtesy runners.

“For a pitcher (Dykshorn) that throws strikes, I think we chased some things the second time through the lineup,” she said. “First time through and in the first inning we were hitting the ball hard, but then I think we got a little anxious. We had a batter see six pitches in an at-bat (in the third inning), but then we went down in two pitches and the next batter went down on the first pitch. I thought as the game went on and when we had to, we weren’t patient and didn’t have good pitch selection in that situation.”

But Friedrichsen noted she was pleased her team did not throw in the towel.

“I was very pleased with our comeback in the sixth. It would have been easy to have folded over our tents and said, ‘We’ll move on to our two o’clock game.’ But we didn’t and we battled. We just didn’t play strong enough defense to get the job done,” Friedrichsen said.

Van Der Zwaag’s final line in the pitcher’s circle was five and two-thirds innings of work with eight hits, six runs of which five were earned, five walks and six strikeouts.

“I could have hit my spots better, but we’ve got to play as a team,” Van Der Zwaag said. “Coming down to Fort Dodge, I think the strike zone gets smaller, but as I get older I have to get used to that.”

The defeat sent the Nighthawks into the seventh-place game later in the afternoon Wednesday, July 19, against West Marshall.

B-H/RV falls to West Marshall and takes eighth place

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Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley0-0-1-0-0-0-X1

FORT DODGE-It was not the ultimate finish second-seed Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley was hoping for in the Class 3A state tournament Wednesday, July 19, but the Nighthawk seniors will be remembered as one of the best senior classes in school history following a 3-1 defeat in six innings to West Marshall.

Neither team was able to get much offense going, but Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley had a chance to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the second. Keely Swanson led off the inning with a ground-ball single that just got past the diving second baseman. But after Kaylee Vande Hoef came in as a pinch runner, two strikeouts and a flyout to center field ended the threat.

But the Nighthawks were able to break through in the bottom of the third for the game’s first run. With one out, Taylor Richter hit a line drive single into left field and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Sammy Blum. Cassie Van Beek then sent Richter home on a hard shot into the left center field gap.

The Trojans quickly got that run back in the top of the fourth. Brooke Snider began the frame with a soft single that fell in front of Brianna Brandt in center field. After a batter’s interference call on a sacrifice bunt attempt, Kyle Cripps sent a single into the outfield to put runners on first and second with one out. Following a fielder’s choice play to third base, West Marshall hit another single to tie the game at 1.

After a scoreless bottom of the fourth by the Nighthawks, the Trojans increased their lead to 3-1 in the top of the fifth. The stanza began with a walk, a bunt and another walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Snider sent one of the two runners home on a double into the right center field gap, before a fielder’s choice play from second base to first sent the second run home.

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley threatened in the fifth and sixth innings before the game was called due to time limit. In the bottom of the fifth, Alexis Mousel drew a walk and was courtesy run by Charli Bomgaars. Brianna Kleinwolterink hit a sacrifice bunt to move Bomgaars to second base, but a foul popup to the catcher and a 4-3 putout ended the inning.

The bottom of the sixth began with an infield single to third base by Van Beek. Following a fielder’s choice play from the pitcher to second base to get Van Beek out, a double play ended the game and the Nighthawks finished as the eighth-best team in Class 3A.

“They (West Marshall) capitalized on more than what we did and against a quality opponent, if you don’t do that more than they do, you’re not going to come out on the winning end,” said Nighthawks’ coach Sara Friedrichsen.

The coach noted that the Trojans’ pitcher, Kallie Malloy, was a good one.

“That’s one of the best pitcher’s in the Class 3A field. We put the bat on the ball pretty well I think. We just needed to adjust a little bit better. They came up with the timely hits and we didn’t,” the coach said.

The final offensive stats had Richter with one hit and one run. Van Beek had two hits and one RBI. Swanson had the final hit.

But Sammy Blum and Van Beek noted that this was a year to remember, not only in Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley softball, but in all the sports in which they participated. Blum was a state qualifier in cross-country and track, with Van Beek also being a state qualifier in the shot put and a state champion in the high jump. Both Blum and Van Beek were on the Rock Valley basketball team that was a few points short of a state berth in a defeat to eventual Class 2A state champion Western Christian.

“It was definitely one for the books,” Van Beek said. “I mean during the basketball season, too, we battled all the way in the sub-state game with Western. Then for track, definitely one of the best years for me in the high jump and now for softball this is definitely one of the best years I ever did have.”

“It was a great way to end my senior year, especially with my senior teammates in all sports. Just a great way to end the year,” Blum said.

Both seniors noted they will miss the relationships they made with their teammates.

“What I will remember most is definitely the relationships I have with my teammates. I loved going to our coach’s house (Friedrichsen) and playing ‘mafia’ and hanging out with everybody there. It was definitely a fun time and that’s what I’ll remember most,” Van Beek said.

“I think I’ll remember the heart of every single person in this group. We are all very close to each other and I absolutely love that,” Blum said. “This is the closest group I have ever been with and I couldn’t thank them enough for that and what they gave back to me.”

The senior class of Blum, Van Beek, Brandt and Mousel will go down as one of the best senior classes in Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley softball history as they tied for the most career wins with 133. Friedrichsen said they will for sure be missed and the lower classmen will have to step up next season. The final record in 2017 for Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley was 32-5.

“I can’t be prouder of the group and what these five seniors have done with the program. They’re over 130-something wins in their career, so that’s just a remarkable number. I’m blessed to have been a part of it and to be able to coach them,” Friedrichsen said. “They (the seniors) have left their mark, they’ve established a legacy here and they’ve set the bar high. I think we’ve got some talented young kids that can step in and fill those roles, but they’ve got some big shoes to fill.”

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