Breakthrough title for Albia in 3A
First state crown in any sport for southeast Iowa school
A black headband sits on the forehead of Albia pitcher Jena Lawrence each time she steps into the circle, and it’s rather innocuous until she turns it around. In bold, block white letters, is just one word.
She says she started to wear it as a joke, but it quickly became a part of her game attire. It went from amusing to prophetic after her performance yesterday at the Rogers Sports Complex.
The senior and Creighton University commit nearly single-handedly brought top-ranked Albia its first-ever team state championship in any sport, boys or girls, with a masterful performance against third-ranked Williamsburg on Kruger Field.
Lawrence twirled a three-hitter with eighth strikeouts inside the circle and supplied all of the offense the Lady Dees would need with a fourth-inning solo home run to center field, as Albia claimed a 1-0 victory over Williamsburg in the Class 3A title game.
“We just made history right there,” said Lawrence, one of seven senior starters for Albia. “There was a a lot of pressure on us because it’s our last game, it’s our last chance. There are seven of us and we really wanted to go out with a bang.”
And the headband?
“I started (wearing) it at the beginning of the year,” she said. “We bought these at a tournament and it was a complete joke. But then we started winning every game and it became a superstition thing.”
Lawrence was named the captain of the all-tournament team. After winning the 100th game of her career earlier this week, she capped her season with a 20-0 record.
Alex Beard, the Lady Dees’ senior catcher, praised Lawrence’s performance afterward.
“This was definitely a typical Jena performance,” Beard, an all-tournament team member, said. “She’s been on fire this year. She’s literally the best pitcher I’ve ever caught in my life and I’ve caught a lot of pitchers.
“I love her so much and she makes me a better player.”
Lawrence retired the first 10 batters she faced before Williamsburg’s Charley Geguzis broke up the perfect game with a one-out single to left in the top of the fourth.
Lawrence led off the last half of the fourth and sent a Peyton Driscoll offering on a ride. The line-drive just cleared the fence in center, and Lawrence’s first dinger of the season gave the Lady Dees the edge for good.
“This whole year I’ve been popping up, so before the game I was really concentrating on keeping my hands up,” Lawrence said. “(Driscoll) was throwing me up … I just saw a pitch that looked really good and I purposely kept my hands up.
“My first home run in the state championship game, that’s unbelievable. I would have never dreamed.”
Williamsburg put a base runner in scoring position in each of the final three innings, but Albia slammed the door each time. Lawrence got strikeouts to end the fifth and sixth, and in the seventh, with the Raiders’ Jill Holub standing on third base, Lawrence got Megan Lamparek to fly out to right to ignite the celebration in the circle.
“(Lawrence) is a great player, she kind of beat us by herself,” said Williamsburg head coach Adam Berte, a Twin River Valley High School and Iowa Central Community College graduate.
Abbie Griffin, Lauren Bayer and Jade Boland added singles for Albia, which was in the state tournament field for the fourth consecutive season. The Lady Dees were the 3A runner-up in 2017 when Lawrence and Beard were freshmen.
The one swing by Lawrence dampened what was an otherwise stellar performance by Driscoll. The lanky Williamsburg freshman limited Albia to four hits and she fanned nine, including four consecutive batters following Lawrence’s long ball.
Holub and Aubray Walters joined Geguzis with the only hits for the Raiders, who were also looking for their first-ever state softball championship.
Reality hadn’t quite sunk in for Beard as she hugged family and friends following the victory. But she says the Lady Dees earned the right to celebrate.
“This means everything and we’ve worked so hard for this,” she said. “We’re always playing softball, we’re always hitting in the cage.
“When we (reached the state final in 2017), we were all so young and wanted to have fun. We thought, ‘Let’s just win on Monday so that we can go to the water park.’ We didn’t know any better and we really didn’t understand the stakes. But after that, we realized this is something we could do.”
Albia 1, Williamsburg 0
Williamsburg000 000 0 — 0 3 0
Albia000 100 x — 1 4 0
Peyton Driscoll and Carly Campbell. Jena Lawrence and Alex Beard. W — Lawrence. L — Driscoll. HR — ALB: Lawrence. RBI — ALB: Lawrence