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Pella Christian’s late rally trips North Union at state softball

FLIP TO FIRST — North Union starting pitcher Emily Meyer (28) flips the softball to Warriors’ first baseman Maggie Engelby for an out during Iowa Class 2A state consolation action against Pella Christian on Tuesday at Dodger Diamond at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Prep softball can be called a game of inches, and North Union senior second baseman Vanessa Von Bank knows that fact all too well.

Von Bank drilled a pivotal fifth-inning double off the Dodger Diamond fence and later scored the game-tying run on Naomi Jones’ two-out RBI single to draw the No. 5-seeded Warriors even with the No. 8-seeded Pella Christian Eagles during Tuesday’s Class 2A state consolation game at Rogers Sports Complex.

Emri Agre, however, snapped the 3-all tie by punching her third hit of the day — the go-ahead RBI single — through the right side of the infield in the top of the seventh to rally Pella Christian to an eventual 5-3 victory over North Union in Fort Dodge.

Pella Christian ended its Cinderella season with an 18-19 overall record, while Top of Iowa Conference West Division champion North Union capped its record-setting summer with a 29-6 mark.

“Even though we lost two close games, the state tournament experience was everything I had hoped it would be,” said Vanessa Von Bank, who held an official spot on the Warriors’ 2017 state softball roster as an eighth-grader, but did not play due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “In my mind, I looked to crank it (fifth-inning delivery) out of the park, but in reality, I hit it off the bottom of the left-field fence for a double.

“It wasn’t a home run, but I eventually scored to tie up the game, so I’m happy about that,” Von Bank said with a smile.

Trailing 5-3 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Vanessa Von Bank stepped to the batter’s box one final time as a prep athlete with Libby Stevens standing on first base. Stevens was serving as the courtesy runner for Emily Meyer, who had hammered a leadoff single down the right-field line.

Von Bank then cranked a stinging line-drive that Pella Christian shortstop Natalie Harrill gloved and nearly turned a double play on, if not for Stevens’ quick return to the bag.

Pella Christian reliever Trinity Vos then recorded back-to-back groundouts to seal just her fourth pitching victory out of nine decisions on the season.

“I can’t complain after making great contact my last two high school at-bats. I hit the pitch in the seventh hard, but it was right at her (Harrill),” said Vanessa Von Bank, who plans to compete in intramural basketball and softball at Division I Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., during the winter and next spring, respectively.

Similar to Monday’s 7-4 state quarterfinal loss to Earlham, North Union trailed after only one inning of action during Tuesday’s consolation clash with Pella Christian.

Faith Kacmarynski drew a one-out walk, wheeled to third base when Harrill’s grounder was misplayed and scored on a wild pitch for the Eagles. Harrill then trotted home for a 2-0 lead when Emma Eekhoff launched an RBI double into the left-field corner.

Pella Christian manufactured a solo run in the top of the second without the benefit of a hit. Vos was plunked, Anna Bonnett walked and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Vos then beat the throw to the plate after Bailey Roose was retired on an RBI comebacker.

Cassie Beadle, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, legged out a perfect bunt in front of the plate to trigger the Warriors’ third at-bat. Beadle took second on a wild pitch, motored to third on Olivia Von Bank’s groundout, stayed put when Emily Meyer’s grounder was mishandled and scored on Vanessa Von Bank’s RBI groundout.

Down 3-1, North Union and Pella Christian received one umpire’s decision apiece during the Warriors’ one-run fourth at-bat.

With one out, Kaylee Meyer walked, but was hit in the foot by Ella Ulrich’s right-side grounder. Meyer hesitated briefly before running to second base, with none of the three umpires making an out call. Meyer then circled the bases on Sam Nielsen’s towering RBI double to the left-center gap to slice the Warriors’ deficit to 3-2.

Unfortunately for North Union, Nielsen brushed the Eagles’ shortstop as Harrill fielded Beadle’s grounder, and Nielsen was called out for interference. After much confusion on determining which runners remained on base, Pella Christian starting pitcher Alexa Dunsbergen got a groundout to prevent further damage.

Knotted at 3-all, Bonnett triggered the Eagles’ seventh-inning comeback by drilling a leadoff single up the middle. Roose walked one out later, Kacmarynski blooped a single to right-center and Agre swatted an RBI single between first and second to plate Bonnett with the go-ahead run. Roose later scored an insurance run when Eekhoff drew a bases-loaded walk.

Vos allowed just one hit in two shutout innings of relief to earn the win for the Eagles. The right-hander did not record a strikeout or a walk.

Dunsbergen allowed three runs — one earned — on seven hits, walked five and did not record in a strikeout in five frames.

Emily Meyer gave up five runs — three earned — on seven hits, struck out five, walked four and hit one batter in seven innings of work to absorb the loss for the Warriors.

“Our goal coming into this season was to qualify for state,” said North Union head coach Kim Price, who was selected as the Class 2A Northwest All-District Coach of the Year. “Going forward, our goal will be to return here (Rogers Sports Complex) and try to win a state championship.”

PC 210 000 2 — 5 7 1

NU 001 110 0 — 3 8 1

Alexa Dunsbergen, Trinity Vos (6, WP) and Sydney Nunnikhoven. Emily Meyer (LP) and Shelby Fraker.

LOB–North Union 10, Pella Christian 7. 2B–Sam Nielsen (NU), Vanessa Von Bank (NU) and Emma Eekhoff (PC). SAC–Shelby Fraker (NU).

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