WEST LIBERTY - Only eight teams earn berths to the state softball tournament.
Monday, July 15, in West Liberty, one of those top eight teams were not going to be represented in Fort Dodge as the eighth-ranked Raiders battled the fourth-ranked Comets in a class 3A regional championship game.
Sadly, for Anamosa fans, it didn’t take long to find out which of the two talented clubs was going to be heading home.
“We knew coming in that we needed to keep West Liberty’s Haylee Lehman off the bases and we would have to score early to make an immediate statement in this game,” said Raider softball coach Brad Holub, as the Anamosa program competed in a regional final for the first time since 1996, dropping a tough 7-2 decision ending one of the most successful campaigns in school history.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It was West Liberty who made the early statement while we seemed a little tentative. That was the difference in the game.”
The Raiders, however, quickly got to star West Liberty pitcher Isabelle True, as leadoff batter Emily Watters was hit by a pitch before Grace Lubben followed with a hit that unfortunately struck Watters as she was running towards second base.
Following a strikeout, Jessie Frasher worked a walk and Anamosa had two runners on base.
“That turned out to be a big spot in the game,” Holub said. “I wish we could have pushed something across there because we had a chance. You never know how that would have had an effect on things the rest of the way.”
Instead, True got out of the first inning jam, and then her offense went to work on the bottom half of the frame.
The Comets recorded five first inning hits and scored three runs as Anamosa fans, who turned out in huge numbers, sat in stunned silence.
The hosts tacked on two more in the second stanza before blowing the game open with another two-spot in the third to extend their advantage to a whopping 7-0.
“I really don’t know what happened,” said Raider junior pitcher Kalli Minger, as tears poured down her face following the season-ending contest.
“I know we weren’t scared coming in here. Maybe we just wanted it too much.”
With her team down by seven runs and sensing things were beginning to spiral out of control, Raider junior shortstop Ellie Tallman called a time out and huddled the entire team around the pitcher’s circle for a pep talk.
The discussion seemed to settle everyone down as the Raiders went on to out score the hosts 2-0 from the fourth inning on.
“I don’t think we played our best softball tonight, but I also think West Liberty had a lot to do with that,” Tallman said. “Their pitcher was on point and their defense was good, too. We messed up the little things that make big differences in games, and just could never get back in it.
“This loss hurts so much knowing we were so close to accomplishing our goal, but just being able to make it this far, doing something that hasn’t been done for so long here at Anamosa, is a good feeling, too.”
Anamosa scored their first run of the game in the top of the fourth when Frasher reached base with a one-out single.
Maggie Wagner came in to pinch run and crossed the plate thanks to an Alexa Jess single.
The visitors did it again in the sixth when Lubben led off with a single and came around to score thanks to a passed ball.
Lubben led the five-hit offense with two singles.
“This one is going to sting for a while,” said Holub, as his team wraps the 2019 campaign with a phenomenal 31-5 overall record, tying the 1996 team’s school record for fewest losses in a season.
“Our goal was the state tournament, and to come up one win shy, that’s tough to take.”