‘CATS ARE BACK
Humboldt earns consecutive state bids for first time
HUMBOLDT — It’s not a far drive to Rogers Park and Fort Dodge for the Humboldt softball team.
It’s also becoming a familiar one.
The Wildcats (30-3 overall) are headed back to the state tournament, thanks to a third victory this year over North Central Conference rival Algona. This time, Humboldt earned an 8-4 victory in a Class 3A Regional final.
“We had a lot of new athletes and we just didn’t know how fast it would all develop,” said Humboldt head coach Doug Van Pelt. “This group just competes. They have it in their mind and they expect to win every time out.
“They got to (state) last year and knew this was their turn. To win the conference (North Central), and go 30-3 (overall) — that’s pretty salty.”
Last year, the Wildcats lost their opening state contest before bouncing back to place fifth. That squad was built around seven seniors.
This group has two seniors and three juniors. Eleven underclassmen help make up the new-look Wildcats.
“We had kind of a bad taste in our mouth after last year, as we had seven seniors,” said sophomore Mady Lange. “It’s awesome to get back with all of our younger players. We really wanted to do it again.
“This team has great chemistry, just like last year’s team. We worked really hard in the offseason to make this happen.”
Lange did her part to put the Wildcats in position to win, going 4-for-4 with a double, three RBI and two stolen bases.
Sophomore pitcher Ellie Jacobson (30-1) picked up her 30th victory of the season. She fanned nine batters.
“We have great realtionships on this team,” Jacobson said. “It’s very rewarding to get back to state. We had a big group of seniors last year, and now, with a young group, it’s very encouraging that we can make it back even more.”
One of two seniors, Rachel Darling, had a strong night at the plate as well, going 3-for-4 with three RBI.
Sisters Kendal Clark (freshman) and Ashlyn Clark (junior), combined to go 4-for-6 with one run scored. Ashlyn had a double.
Van Pelt knew there would be a target on Humboldt’s back this season.
“It’s hard to be ranked in the Top-5 all year without any expierence and come out and earn a state bid,” Van Pelt said. “Then to beat a conference team for the third time … that was also difficult.
“We had to battle and compete. Our girls just kept grinding.”
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the second inning. Humboldt had the bases loaded with no one out.
Sophomore Addie Birdsell hit a ball that third baseman Kameryn Etherington fielded and threw to home for the force. Algona tried to turn the double play at first, but the ball sailed to the deep corner in right field, bringing home all three runs.
Sophomore Aliyah Buscher plated the first run for the Bulldogs with an RBI-single in the third to score pinch-runner Ashlin Young.
Etherington hit a double to dead center to plate senior Emma Hjelle and junior Nicole Smidt to cut Humboldt’s lead, 4-3. Etherington finished the contest 2-for-2 with two doubles and two walks.
Senior Claudia Schrauth was 2-for-3 with a double.
Humboldt’s first contest will be a 3A quarterfinal on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. on Diamond 2. The Wildcats face seventh-ranked Atlantic (30-5).
HUMBOLDT 8, ALGONA 4
Algona 001 201 0 — 4 7 1
Humboldt 031 400 x — 8 12 0
Brooke Fonley (L, 2•, 6 hits, 0ER, 0BB, 0SO), Kameryn Etherington, 3ª, 6 hits, 1ER, 1BB, 0SO) and Aliyah Buscher. Ellie Jacobson (W, 7, 7 hits, 4ER, 7BB, 8SO) and Mady Lange. 2B–Algona: Etherington (2), Claudia Schrauth; Humboldt: Ashlyn Clark.