Mustangs reach title round
Courtney Darrow knew her team’s offense was due.
Top-seeded Newell-Fonda pulled away from Southeast Warren on Wednesday, posting a 7-3 victory on Kruger Seeds Field to reach the Class 1A state championship round for the first time in over a decade.
The Mustangs (37-4 overall) have been a regular visitor to Rogers Park in recent years, qualifying 13 times in the last 16 seasons. This will mark their first appearance in the final round, though, since 2010.
Darrow, a 2008 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate and former standout player under Dodger head coach Andi Adams, watched her bats go relatively quiet in a 1-0 regional championship victory and a 2-0 state quarterfinal triumph. For a squad batting .375 on the season, it was only a matter of time before the runs started to come.
“Some of the girls said (Wednesday morning), ‘Coach, we haven’t had a big hitting game lately,'” said Darrow, whose maiden name is Courtney Vaughn. “I told them it was coming, and there was no better time than (in the semis).”
After falling behind 1-0 early, the Mustangs plated a run in the second and two more in the third before landing a four-run haymaker in the fourth. Anna Bellcock was a key figure in all three rallies, delivering a two-run single to cap the last charge. Bellcock, a junior, finished 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBI.
Freshman hurler Kierra Jungers (28-3), meanwhile, kept a potent Warhawk offense at bay until allowing two harmless runs in the seventh. Jungers tossed a complete game, surrendering two earned runs and striking out seven.
“We knew they were a strong hitting team, so it was big to get the lead, extend it, and then have the defense play so well behind me,” Jungers said. “This feels great. We knew we were going to get the bats going eventually. I was just trying to take things one pitch at a time and let my teammates do the rest.”
Southeast Warren (29-3) did have nine hits, but Jungers stranded seven runners and always found a way to minimize the damage. Holding on to a 3-1 advantage with the tying run on base and go-ahead at the plate, Jungers ended a long struggle with Emma King by striking her out to stamp out the threat.
Senior Ella Larsen was 2-for-3 with a run scored for the Mustangs, who are searching for their first state title since 2008 — the only year to this point the program has captured gold. Sophomore Mia Walker also had two hits.
Breanna Nolte registered two hits and drove in a pair for the Warhawks, who were the top-hitting ballclub in 1A during the regular season.
Twelve of N-F’s players were also on the school’s 1A state championship basketball team.
“They’ve been in big-game pressure situations,” Darrow said. “Softball is different, of course, but they like to compete and they’ve been in a lot of state-tournament environments. I think that makes a difference. Now it’s softball’s turn. They want it.”
The Mustangs will meet Lisbon (37-8) for the 1A title at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Rogers Park.
NEWELL-FONDA 7, SE WARREN 3
SE Warren 100 000 2 — 3 9 2
Newell-Fonda 012 400 x — 7 8 1
WP–Kierra Jungers (28-3; 7 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K); LP–Alivia Ruble (18-3; 6 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K). 2B–N-F: Bailey Sievers; SEW: Breanna Nolte, Josie Hartman. SB–N-F: Ella Larsen, Maggie Walker.