(Harlan) — For the first time in a quarter of a century, the Mount Ayr Softball team will play at the state tournament.
The Class 2A No. 9 Raiderettes (25-2) punched their ticket to Fort Dodge in dominating fashion, leading beginning-to-end in a 9-0 win over No. 4 West Monona (30-6). Mount Ayr earned the No. 4 seed in Class 2A and will play against fifth-seeded Beckman Catholic Monday, July 22nd at 3:30 p.m.
“Four years ago, our goal was to not get 10-runned,” said Mount Ayr co-Coach Bret Ruggles. “Our goal was to literally be .500, try to score runs and try to be in ball games; that was four years ago. Programs aren’t built in four years. We had a select group of girls that laid the foundation. They graduated and left the program a little better than they found. These girls took it and took it to the next level.”
The Raiderettes’ lone senior Caroline McAlexander was big once again, tossing a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts. She stranded eight Spartan baserunners and scattered five hits to go with three walks.
“She’s been fantastic,” said Ruggles. “She’s better late in games and she’s so much better late in seasons. I don’t know if it’s rest and the days off help her, but she finds a way.”
“I just threw my stuff,” said McAlexander. “It was weird, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be. I trust my catcher and I definitely trust my defense.”
It was all Mount Ayr from the start, as the Raiderettes got a leadoff double from Sam Stewart on the second pitch of the game.
“We told our girls we wanted to be aggressive to the point where I thought about having Sam Stewart bunt,” said Ruggles. “I didn’t want Lander to get a strikeout, but Stewart roped one off the fence for a double, so that made my job easier.”
Following a strikeout, McAlexander was hit by a pitch. Alexa Anderson grounded back to West Monona pitcher Lexi Lander, who attempted to throw to third. The throw sailed high, allowing Stewart to score. Following another strikeout, Rachel Sobotka hit an RBI single and Anderson scored on a wild pitch to put Mount Ayr up 3-0 after the first half-inning.
Neither team would score until the top of the fourth, when the Raiderettes scored two. Channler Henle reached on an error and scored one batter later on a three-base throwing error. Payten Lambert would then come in to score on a Stewart sacrifice fly.
Mount Ayr added another run in the fifth. McAlexander worked an eight-pitch walk and courtesy runner Maddie Stewart moved to third on a wild pitch and ground out. Stewart would score on Sobotka’s second RBI single of the ballgame to make it 6-0.
The Raiderettes added three more insurance runs in the sixth. Henle and Lambert hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning to plate a run. Lambert scored on a McAlexander RBI single and Maddie Stewart scored her second run of the game on an Anderson RBI single.
“I was more happy that in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning we kept adding on,” said Ruggles. “If we can manufacture runs each inning, that helps us in Fort Dodge.”
Sobotka paced the offense, going 2-for-4 with two RBI. Henle finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Lambert tallied twice.
“We’re going to take tomorrow off and enjoy it,” said Ruggles. “We’re not going to change how we do anything; they way we prep and the way we play softball. We’re just going to go up there and try to make a mess.”
Following the contest, KMA Sports talked with Ruggles and McAlexander in a video you can view below.
West Monona recorded five hits — all singles — in the defeat. Lander took the loss, allowing seven earned runs, while striking out nine.