Lo-Ma tops Lady Vikes in eight-inning WIC semifinal

 UNDERWOOD (July 1) -- Following a nice mid-game rally, AHSTW simply couldn’t get the timely hit it needed down the stretch Thursday night, falling to Logan-Magnolia 7-6 in an eight-inning Western Iowa Conference Softball Tournament semifinal at Underwood.
 The second-seeded Panthers won the game in walkoff fashion when courtesy runner Kali Collins slid home safely on Amelia Evans’ fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop with one out in the bottom of the eighth.
 The score had been tied at 6-6 since the third-seeded Lady Vikes plated three runs in the top of the fourth following five unanswered by Lo-Ma.
 The Panthers (15-5) went on to beat top-seeded and eighth-ranked (2A) Underwood 7-2 in Thursday’s late-evening championship game. The Lady Vikes finished regular season play at 15-12 overall.
 “It was a mix of the Hiatt girl throwing well to us... and just things more or less not going our way,” said AHSTW head coach Trevor Gipple, referring to Lo-Ma freshman pitcher Abby Hiatt.
 “Their defense played great and I thought our defense played great, and we got beat on a situation that I’m not going to hold my head about. We’ve battled, we’ve overcome. This wasn’t in the cards for us. I think my team is hitting its stride right now where we need to be as far as moving forward into regionals. Super proud of the girls.”
 Hiatt pitched all eight innings for the Panthers, allowing eight hits and three earned runs and holding the Lady Vikes scoreless the final four frames. Hiatt worked around a leadoff walk and a Grace Porter single to start the fifth, another leadoff walk in the sixth and Natalie Hagadon’s leadoff single in the seventh, when she started a 1-6-3 double play to greatly alter the inning.
 AHSTW senior Kailey Jones pitched four impressive scoreless innings in relief of Sienna Christian before allowing the winning run in the eighth, which started when Lo-Ma catcher Kattie Troxel was narrowly able to beat out an infield single on a ground ball up the middle.
 Collins ran for Troxel and went to second on a passed ball and got to third on a third-strike wild pitch. With runners at second and third and one out, Evans’ chopper to Hagadon at short was hit just slowly enough to allow Collins to slide under the tag at home and win the game.
 Jones (8-4) allowed just three hits in her four and one-third innings, walking none and striking out four. Christian, who battled her command early, surrendered five hits and six runs (five earned) in three innings. She walked three batters, hit one and struck out five.
 Jones, Ally Meyers and Christian have split the pitching duties for AHSTW this season with varying levels of success. Gipple said he opted to start Christian Thursday based on the fact that Jones had already pitched 13 innings against the Panthers this year as they split their WIC regular season series.
 “We went with Sienna tonight based on Lo-Ma having not seen her yet,” he said.
 “(All our pitchers) have their own intangibles... None of them are alike. Ally’s a great spot pitcher, Sienna’s got the fastball and Jones has been throwing for five years and - God bless her - she puts us on her back any time I ask her to and goes out there and goes to war.”
 Offensively, the Lady Vikes got a big boost from the bottom half of their lineup Thursday and posted a pair of three-run innings, taking a 3-1 lead in the top of the second and rallying to tie the game at 6-6 in the fourth.
 Two Panther errors played a big role in the AHSTW second, which saw eighth-grader Grayson Gettler deliver a two-out RBI single and freshman Graycen Partlow add a two-run single.
 Christian led off the fourth with a double to the right field fence and Darian Hansen followed with a single, setting the stage for a two-run single up the middle by Gettler. With two outs in the inning, Meyers’ RBI base hit plated Partlow to tie the score.
 Gettler, batting eighth, led the team with two hits and three RBI while courtesy runner Loralei Wahling scored twice for Christian in the six hole. Hansen had a big hit from the seven spot and Rylie Knop and Isabel Luna combined for a walk, a run scored and a sac bunt from the nine hole.
 “We’re young,” Gipple noted. “Super proud of that bottom half and if they’re going to do that every night, it’ll be fun next week [in regionals].”
 Logan-Magnolia, which overcame five errors in the win, was led by number eight batter Ashley Christians, who went 3-for-4 with a two-RBI single in the third. Evans scored twice from the leadoff spot, had an RBI single and drove in a pair. Erikah Rife capped Lo-Ma’s three-run second with a two-run triple and Macanna Guritz had a sacrifice fly in the first.
Regionals start this week
 Following a few days off and a first round bye, AHSTW will open Class 2A regional play Wednesday night (July 7) in Avoca, hosting Tri-Center (6-19) at 7:00 p.m. The Lady Vikes have won two very contrasting games against T-C so far this year, prevailing 19-1 on May 25 and 4-3 on June 11.
 AHSTW’s half of the bracket includes three more conference foes in Underwood, Missouri Valley and Treynor. A quarterfinal win Wednesday would likely result in a Region 2 semifinal at Underwood Friday night.
 However it goes down, the first part of the Lady Vikes’ postseason trail will involve facing teams they are very familiar with, and vice versa.
 “This conference this year has just been absolutely unreal,” said Gipple, “and then when the pairings came out it’s like, ‘Ah man, somebody’s got to go through somebody else in the conference to get where you ultimately want to go.’
 “Wednesday will be fun. We’ve seen them the second time around. I know they’re improving. They’re playing good ball and they’ve had some really quality wins in the conference, so it should be an exciting game.”

Western Iowa Conference Softball Tournament
First Round Score - Tuesday, June 29
Tri-Center 4, IKM-Manning 3
Quarterfinal Scores - Tuesday, June 29
Underwood 12, Tri-Center 2 (6)      Logan-Magnolia 1, Missouri Valley 0
Audubon 11, Riverside 8                 AHSTW 7, Treynor 0
Semifinal Scores - Thursday, July 1 (at Underwood)
Underwood 7, Audubon 0             Logan-Magnolia 7, AHSTW 6 (8)
Championship Game Score - Thursday, July 1 (at Underwood)
Logan-Magnolia 7, Underwood 2

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