Norse will play for 3A crown
Pitch after pitch, the Roland-Story battery of Riley Holmgren and Hailey Louw kept pushing the boundary. And pitch after pitch, they kept getting the call they were after.
Using a bloated strike zone to their advantage, Holmgren and Louw systematically silenced the bats of Albia in a Class 3A state semifinal showdown on Diamond 2 at the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex yesterday afternoon.
Ninth-ranked Roland-Story (30-4) pushed two runs across in the second inning, and then plated one in the fourth and another in the seventh to knock off second-ranked and 2017 state runner-up Albia, 4-0.
It’s the first trip to the finals for the Norse they won a fall state title in 1981. Their last summer crown came way back in 1971.
Roland-Story will have to climb Mt. Everest to take home the championship trophy. Defending state champion and top-ranked Davenport Assumption awaits in tomorrow’s 3:30 title game. But don’t expect the Norse to be intimidated.
“Our word of this year is champion,” Holmgren, a DePaul University recruit who allowed just five hits and struck out nine against Albia, said. “We’re going into that game thinking we can win this. If we play our game, we can win.”
Louw, the defensive architect for the Norse, almost exclusively set up off the plate and outside to the Lady Dees’ right-handed batters. Holmgren peppered her glove as Albia continually laid off the offerings that were called strikes.
“We kept pushing and pushing and we got to the chalk line,” Louw said. “It’s really a game-changer when you can push the corners, even a fraction of an inch.”
Holmgren picked up on the expanded strike zone early in the contest. Two of her punch- outs were on called third strikes.
“I love having that call, especially when you figure it out early,” Holmgren said. “You’re like, ‘OK, I’m going to keep hitting that spot until they get the hang of it’ and they never did.”
Albia (32-5), which will battle fourth-ranked Humboldt for third place tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., was its own worst enemy defensively. Four errors led to all four runs being unearned, as Roland-Story capitalized when the opportunities were presented.
“They made the plays when they needed to make them and we didn’t,” Albia head coach Larry Achenbach said. “They definitely deserved to win this game. They played better than we did.”
No. 8 hitter Allisyn Coghlan busted the game open for the Norse in the second inning with a double down the left-field line that scored Sydney Mathis and Madison Geise for a 2-0 lead. Albia had Coghlan shaded in, but she hammered a Jena Lawrence pitch over the head of outfielder Danica Workman.
“It was a high pitch, so I probably shouldn’t have swung at it,” Coghlan said. “But when I hit it, I was so happy. It was a big hit for my team.”
A throwing error by Albia made it 3-0 in the fourth. Jessica Hovick opened the seventh with a double to left-center for the Norse and padded the lead on another throwing error later in the frame.
Holmgren, Susie Weaver and Madison Friest added singles for the Norse. Workman, the Lady Dees’ No. 9 stick, went 2 for 3. Lawrence, Rylee Leshen and Abbey Griffin all singled.
Albia loaded the bases with just one out in the fifth, but left empty-handed after Holmgren induced back-to-back pop-ups on the infield.
Roland-Story 4, Albia 0
Roland-Story 020 100 1 — 4 5 3
Albia 000 000 0–0 5 4
Riley Holmgren and Hailey Louw. Jena Lawrence and Alex Beard. W–Holmgren. L–Lawrence. 2B–R-S: Jessica Hovick, Allisyn Coghlan. Multiple hits–ALB: Danica Workman. RBI–R-S: Coghlan (2).