SWEA CITY - Even second-year Lake Mills head softball coach Sabrina Roll did not have a definitive answer for her Bulldogs' fifth-inning offensive outburst during Friday night's Iowa Class 2A, Region 1 semifinal clash with No. 1-ranked North Union.
Unranked Lake Mills erupted for seven hits to generate eight runs in the fateful bottom of the fifth before senior ace right-hander Josie Brackey sealed the Bulldogs' stunning 9-7 comeback triumph over the Warriors by recording four of her game-high 14 strikeouts in the final two frames in Swea City.
Lake Mills (24-8), who avenged an 8-0 regular-season loss to North Union on June 26, advances to face No. 7-ranked Emmetsburg at 7 p.m. Monday night in the regional championship game at Bishop Garrigan in Algona, Iowa. Emmetsburg gained the next round via a 5-1 victory over West Lyon.
SOLID CONTACT — North Union batter Collete Haag drills an offering from Lake Mills ace hurler Josie Brackey (not shown) during an Iowa Class 2A, Region 1 semifinal softball game Friday night in Swea City. Lake Mills went on to defeat the No. 1-ranked Warriors, 9-7. (Photo courtesy of Teri Boland)
North Union ended its season with a 30-5 record.
"We're a true team in every sense of the word, and every one of our players fed off of each hit during that inning (fifth)," said Roll, a Lake Mills High School alum and former player.
Trailing 7-1 in an error-filled game - six miscues committed by each defense, the Bulldogs capitalized on a leadoff error during the home half of the fifth.
Sarah Orban and Jurnee Pena followed with back-to-back singles to trigger a string of five consecutive hits to slice the Warriors' lead to 7-5. Carlie Christianson banged a two-run single off the left-field fence before Brackey singled to left to load the bases again.
Megan Johnson drilled a chalk-hugging, two-run double down the right-field line before being erased when she inadvertently ran into North Union shortstop Collete Haag on Randi Dilly's grounder. Dilly then swiped second base as Makenzie Thorson - Brackey's courtesy runner - scored on the backside steal.
Katlyn Eidness then singled home Dilly to knot the game at 7-all before wheeling to second base on Morgan Christenson's sacrifice bunt. Emily Kingland, who started the at-bat by reaching on an error, then delivered the go-ahead run with a pivotal RBI single with two out. Kingland later scored an insurance run when Orban's grounder was misplayed for a 9-7 lead.
The hard-throwing Brackey then faced only seven batters combined during the top of the sixth and seventh innings to close out the comeback victory.
"It was a typical game for her," Roll said in reference to Brackey's 14-strikeout performance.
Indeed. Brackey, who will pitch for Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa, next season, entered Friday's regional semifinal by averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning - a single-season school-record 347 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings worked.
Brackey, however, surrendered four runs to North Union in the top of the first inning, with only two being earned runs.
Cheyanne Boland drew a two-out walk to set the table for the Warriors before Haag singled to left. Anna Bauer - Boland's courtesy runner - and Haag later advanced to second and third on a wild pitch before Dena Looft pounded a high-chopped, two-run single into left.
Harley Lindell reached on an error before both Looft and Lindell circled the bases on Sara Johnson's two-run single to center for an early 4-0 lead.
Brackey assisted her own cause by lining an RBI single to left with two out during the home half of the first. Christianson, who had reached on an error, scored on the hit.
North Union then extended its lead to 7-1 with two more runs in the fourth and a solo run in the fifth.
Allie Ingalls reached on a one-out error, Tori Johnson legged out an infield hit and Cheyanne Boland singled home Ingalls for a 5-1 edge. Tori Johnson, who reached third on a wild pitch, then crossed the plate on Haag's sacrifice fly.
The Warriors converted back-to-back two-out errors on grounders off the bats of Autumn Boland and Ingalls into one run in the fifth en route to a six-run margin.
Carlie Christianson, Brackey and Megan Johnson each went 2-for-3, including key hits in the fifth, to top Lake Mills' 10-hit effort. Looft went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to pace North Union's six-hit performance.
Brackey allowed seven runs - only two earned - on six hits, fanned 14 and issued three walks in seven innings to earn the complete-game victory to improve to 24-3 on the season. Ingalls gave up nine runs - six earned - on 10 hits, struck out six and did not issue a walk in six innings to take the loss.
North Union 400 210 0 - 7 6 6
Lake Mills 100 080 x - 9 10 6
Allie Ingalls (LP) and Cheyanne Boland. Josie Brackey (WP) and Kelcey Srp, Amelia Evenson (5).
LOB-North Union 8; Lake Mills 6. 2B-Megan Johnson (LM). SF-Collete Haag (NU). SAC-Morgan Christenson (LM).