In some ways, Wayne’s Monday night home game versus Melcher-Dallas was anti-climactic. After going on the road to defeat fifth-ranked BCLUW last Friday, the Lady Falcons provided less drama for one of the biggest crowds to ever watch a softball game at Carpenter Field.
Not having lost a contest to a Class 1A team by the time the seedings were dished out, Wayne was under-ranked, underestimated and ready to fight.
The Lady Falcons chose to make their noise on the field, if they could not make it in the computer ratings. An 8-0 victory over Melcher-Dallas at home July 15 made the message very clear—Wayne and veteran head coach Heather Fortune would not go down without a fight.
It has become a summer pastime to seed Wayne too low. Fortune had her girls ready to play.
“It just feels good,” Fortune said. “We knew we weren’t getting the looks we wanted all season long in order to become one of those top-ranked teams, so that maybe the district would look better than it did last year.
“To take BCLUW not even as a regional final game, but as a semifinal two-and-a-half hours away, and then bring it back to Corydon for the final is pretty awesome.”
The Lady Falcons stellar defense continued against the Saints, and it is what may carry them through the bracket at State.
“I was just trying to focus on seeing the ball,” thirdbaseman Emily Jones said. “It felt really great to beat BCLUW, knowing they were ranked 5th in the State. Tonight, we just needed to play like we’ve been playing, relax and have fun.”
Melcher-Dallas did not threaten until the 4th inning. But after pitcher Sterling Berndt allowed a single and a double, she struck out 2 straight batters to get out of the jam. The Saints never threatened again.
“In those kinds of games, especially when it’s only 3-0, one solid hit could turn it into a 3-2 game very quickly,” Fortune said. “When we got up 3-0, we started to lose a bit of focus in the dugout. We had to rein it back in and get the job done.
“We didn’t know what to expect out of Melcher-Dallas—we hadn’t played them for a couple years. Stat for stat, it’s hard to tell when you’re not looking at the same schedule.
“We really went into this game a little more blind. I felt we did a good job settling in and getting the job done.”
Berndt allowed only a walk and a hit batter through the final 3 innings to keep the shutout. The Wayne freshman was dialed in, and even more impressive at the plate.
After beginning the game with a double, scoring to help her team lead 1-0 after the 1st inning, Berndt proceeded to hit a 2-RBI double, an RBI triple, after which Melcher-Dallas senior pitcher Emilie Krpan wisely issued Berndt an intentional walk.
The Lady Falcons broke the game open for good in the bottom of the 4th inning. Mya Willey hit the first pitch into the outfield for a single, Berndt tripled, and then senior Raegan Tilley laid down a clutch suicide squeeze bunt to score Berndt. Later in the frame, Jones doubled home Tilley to make it 6-0.
In the 5th, Willey hit a ground-rule double over the foul pole, and Jaide Harvey followed with a game-clinching double of her own to make it 7-0.
“I knew I had to hit it,” Harvey said. “Pushing the score up would guarantee a win. This was the time to do it, if any time.”
“It was awesome watching her in such a big game,” her father Jason Harvey said.
Camryn Jacobsen put the cherry on top with a deep homerun to left, her second dinger in as many games, making it 8-0.
Berndt allowed only 3 hits and struck out 11. Willey led the team with 3 runs scored, while she, Jacobsen, Jones and Wood each had 2 hits. Sidney Davis pinch ran for Allie Wik after a single and scored a run.
“For me, I don’t have a kid on the team this time,” said Fortune, who is a descendent of the famed Shane Hill baseball team. In 2010 and 2012, her eldest daughter Breanna took the team to State, while in 2014, Haylee played in Fort Dodge with her big sister. “I thought maybe it’d be a little less emotional, and it isn’t.
“These girls, when you spend morning, noon and night with them from May until July, you just want it for them so bad, and they’ve worked hard, they’ve stayed focused. I’m excited to see their hard work pay off, for them to see they’re doing it for a reason. Many of these girls play year-round. If they believe in it, it comes full circle.”
Some may say the season is just getting started, but they are wrong. The accomplishments began in a southern Iowa winter.
“It started in November,” Fortune said. “After basketball season, they hit it pretty hard and they were faithful about coming to hitting practice.”
Two teams from the Pride of Iowa made it to State, as Mount Ayr qualified in 2A, while another opponent, Albia, qualified in 3A. Wayne’s strength of schedule should never have been doubted.
Wayne will play at Fort Dodge on Mon., July 22 at 1 p.m. versus Lisbon. There will be no easy games from here on out. But for the Lady Falcons, discounted and buried in the brackets, they have faced more difficult tasks.