Early seeding leaves softball coaches frustrated

With 10 games still left in the regular season, Mormon Trail, Seymour and Wayne assigned playoff destination

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Wayne’s Allison Wik cheers on teammate Maddy Wood as the freshman snags a hard-hit line drive. / Photo by Jason Selby

With 10 games left to play in the regular season, the governing sports body for high school girls in Iowa, the IGHSAU, handed out its regional playoff seedings on June 26.

It missed a good game later that day between Class 1A Wayne and Class 3A Centerville in the Mount Ayr softball tournament.

The Lady Falcons came into the matchup undefeated against 1A opponents.

Playing as the host team, Wayne went into the bottom of the 7th inning down 2-1 to the Redettes. Freshman Sterling Berndt hit a double to get the Lady Falcons started.

Then freshman Emily Jones singled in Berndt to score the tying run. After another double, this time by Mya Willey, Bayleigh Kellis laid down a bunt, Centerville overthrew first base, and Willey scored the winning run in dramatic, walk-off fashion.

In 7 innings, Berndt allowed 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk and struck out 14. She also led the team with 2 hits including the double and 1 RBI.

Allie Wik and Camryn Jacobsen each had 1 hit. Sidney Davis scored 1 run.

Before the IGHSAU seeded Class 1A, Wayne’s only losses all came on the road, by 1 run to Mount Ayr, the 13th rated Class 2A team; to Albia, the 7th rated Class 3A team; to West Burlington, the 14th rated Class 3A team; and by 1 run to Martensdale-St. Mary’s, a Class 2A team that has missed the State tournament once in the last 10 years, and which the Lady Falcons came back to dominate 13-0—the Thursday before regional pairings were announced.

“Our loss to Martensdale-St. Mary’s early hurt us,” said Wayne head coach Heather Fortune. “But not enough to get what we got. It’s frustrating. We couldn’t get ourselves ranked for some reason.”

The Lady Falcons are currently 17-4.

In Region 4, the IHGSAU seeded Melcher-Dallas ahead of Wayne, which did not get a bye, but was assigned to play Southeast Warren. The Warhawks forfeited 13 wins for using an ineligible player earlier this season. Therefore, the Lady Falcons will be playing a 17-11-quality team in the 1st round instead of watching from the sidelines with a bye.

In addition to Southeast Warren, all Wayne County teams, Mormon Trail, Seymour and Wayne will play at Saling Athletic Complex in Corydon. It is convenient but not the right call.

The argument can be made the Warriorettes were also handily under-seeded. The Seymour girls—11-10 before falling to Wayne 10-0 in 5 innings—beat Twin Cedars earlier in the year 5-3. Yet Twin Cedars is seeded number 2 in Region 4.

The number 1 seed in Region 4, BCLUW, is definitely deserving. It is the 5th-ranked team in Class 1A. But that makes Wayne and Seymour’s placement in BCLUW’s bracket more confusing. If Wayne or Seymour win out, they will be traveling north of Marshalltown on a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride to face the 5th-ranked team at its home field in Conrad.

Whoever makes it on the other side of the bracket, most likely Melcher-Dallas or Twin Cedars, will play the winner on a neutral site.

Another odd possibility includes Central Decatur upsetting BCLUW. Then, if Wayne or Seymour wins their bracket, they would be playing the Cardinals, a team located a half an hour away, in northern Iowa.

Fortunately, after this kind of situation happened a few years ago, the IHGSAU corrected itself and assigned a neutral site after a 1-run upset.

For teams like Wayne and Seymour, who missed several games because of rainouts during the Floods of 2019 and are only now making them up—amounting to 10 exhibitions, since they are being played post-seeding—they can only hope the IGHSAU delays ranking schools until the season is actually over.

“I have just about quit watching the weather forecasts,” Seymour head coach Shaun Houser said. “I think everyone is in the same boat when it comes to field conditions, we just have to do what we can with the fields. We have to get games in.”

Fortunately for all softball teams in Iowa, the winner will still be decided on the field, even if it might be the wrong field.

And taking into consideration strength of schedule would not be a bad idea, either.