IKM-Manning’s Kate Crawford lays down a second-inning sacrifice bunt that helped set up the Wolves’ first run during Friday’s 8-2 WIC Tournament championship game win over Missouri Valley. IKM-M junior Payton Sporrer slides home safely with the first run of the game as Lady Red catcher Kylie Wilson takes the throw.  IKM-M eighth grader Zoey Melton (9) is greeted by Coach Joy Gross after scoring a run. (Photos by Mike Oeffner) IKM-Manning pinch runner Jayden Jensen rounds third base to score a run during Friday’s win.

Wolves secure WIC Softball Tournament crown

IKM-M beats Missouri Valley for tourney title; same two teams will meet again in 2-A regional opener

 NEOLA -- The most important meeting is still to come between the IKM-Manning and Missouri Valley softball teams, but Friday’s regular-season rubber match should certainly give the Wolves a confidence boost going into Class 2-A regional play.
 Showcasing an impressive mix of small ball and timely extra-base hits, IKM-M took an early 4-0 lead and added on four insurance runs in the fifth inning to beat the Lady Reds 8-2 in Friday’s Western Iowa Conference Tournament championship game at Tri-Center.
 The 15th-ranked Wolves (22-6) and Lady Reds (21-10) will meet again in a Class 2-A regional quarterfinal at Irwin Wednesday (July 5) at 7:00 p.m.
 The two teams split their WIC season series - each winning a low-scoring one-run game at home - and Mo. Valley’s 2-1 victory on June 20 contributed to the Wolves finishing two games behind Logan-Magnolia for the league’s regular season title.
 The fourth-seeded Lady Reds were riding high after knocking off Lo-Ma 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinal round, but the momentum from a five-run seventh inning did not carry over to the championship game, which was pushed back to Friday when heavy thunderstorms cut short Thursday’s scheduled tripleheader of games.
 “Our kids were a little stoked up,” said IKM-M head coach Joy Gross. “They made some comments in the paper that they were ready for us and I think our kids were ready for them too. They took a (regular season) conference championship away from us and we weren’t going to let them do it twice.”
 The Wolves executed five sacrifice bunts and a bunt single on the night and also mixed in some well-hit balls against Mo. Valley freshman pitcher Ashlyn Cook (4-2), who has filled in nicely for injured junior Paige Livermore late in the season.
 Paige Gaskill and Payton Sporrer combined for five RBI and four runs scored, both hitting a single and a double. Zoey Melton was 2-for-3 and Taylor Croghan had a double.
 Peyton Gross (22-6), who put down two sac bunts, took care of the rest in holding down a Lady Red offense that looked very impressive just 24 hours earlier against Lo-Ma. Gross’ five-hitter included nine strikeouts and just one walk and she finished the game by retiring eight of the last nine batters she faced.
 IKM-Manning has now reached the title game of the WIC Tournament all four years since joining the league. The Wolves also placed first in 2014 before losing in the finals to Lo-Ma the next two years.

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