OGDEN - Two of the very best in Class 2A went head-to-head here Monday night with a spot in the state softball tournament on the line.
Second-ranked Earlham punched its ticket with a 5-2 victory over No. 4 St. Edmond, denying the Gaels a chance to repeat as hosts next week at Rogers Park.
For St. Edmond (30-6 overall) head coach Paul Hunt, it was a disappointing end to a season that brought the most wins since 2010 with it.
—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
St. Edmond’s Jessica Kuebler connect for a home run against Earlham during a Class 2A regional final on Monday. For more photos, visit CU at messengernews.net
"We battled against one of the top teams out there and fought until the final out," said Hunt, who is now 81-27 in three years at the helm. "I have truly believe we will see Earlham playing next Friday at noon in the state title game. (Kaylie) Brindley is the real deal and the best pitcher we have faced all year.
"It's just too bad that we got matched up before state, as this could have easily been a semifinal round game. But, that's just the way things went this year."
Amanda Lansman, an Iowa Central recruit, matched Brindley in terms of strikeouts, as both recorded 11. The Cardinals (28-4) connected for two solo home runs and plated single runs in all but the first and seventh innings.
EARLHAM 5, ST. EDMOND 2
Earlham011 111 0 - 5 9 1
St. Edmond000 110 0 - 2 5 2
Kaylie Brindley (W, 17-2, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 11 K, 0 BB) and Taelor Williamson; Amanda Lansman (L, 28-6, 7 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 11 K, 2 BB) and Maggie Harvey. HR-E: Abbey Murphy, Jazlin Sprague; SE: Jessica Kuebler. 2B-E: Williamson, Taylor Hipsley.
Senior Abbey Murphy was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a homer, while senior Jazlin Sprague connected on the other longball hitting out of the No. 8 hole.
"Nothing Earlham did surprised us," Hunt said. "They executed the small-ball like we expected, and they got good contact on two of Amanda's pitches. They were just the better team (Monday night)."
Two of the three Cardinal runs that scored on non-homers came with aggressive baserunning, as Taelor Williamson took home off a squeeze bunt and Emily Boston stole home on a double steal.
Brindley, who will attend Waldorf College in the fall, worked her way around trouble by striking out the side in the second after Anna Yung singled and stole second. St. Edmond got to her in the fourth after freshman Maggie Harvey singled and stole second and third.
Harvey crossed home when the throw to third went into the outfield. The only other mistake Brindley made was in the fifth when Jessica Kuebler launched a solo home run to make it 4-2.
Monday marked the final game in a Gael uniform for Kuebler and Cassie Sells. While just a duo, Hunt knows they will be difficult to replace next season.
"Both Cassie and Jessica have meant so much to this team and our program," Hunt said. "When our offense wasn't generating the kind of production we wanted, we moved Cassie into the leadoff spot and she delivered. Our runs per game went up and our team started clicking.
"And for Jessica, she is going to do great things at Iowa Central next year. She really developed herself into a fine softball player."
Earlham, which was ousted in a 1A regional final last year by eventual state runner-up New London, has now won 25 of its last 27 games overall.
Lansman will enter her senior season next summer with 338 strikeouts and a 40-12 career mark. She recorded four strikeouts in the first inning last night and struck out the side in the seventh with runners on second and third.