BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Well – the story was supposed to be that the Fort Madison’s Bloodhound softball team 12-runned the No. 4 team in the state in the first game of a doubleheader Monday night in Fort Madison.
But then Chase Lowney hit a ball about 220 feet into the night for a walkoff game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Hounds a sweep of the No. 4 Class 4A team in the state.
Oh..and she struck out the last batter in the final three innings of work to get the win on the mound, too.
When asked what was going through her mind as she worked the mound in the extra innings she answers with a chuckle.
“Honestly, nothing at all was on my mind. I just wanted to keep my team in the game.”
In a night cap that saw what head coach Stan Schmidt called “a new found confidence in our hitters’ eyes” Lowney, who was the Hounds lead-off hitter, went 3 for 6 with two doubles and the homer.
In the Burlington half of the 1st, 4th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Lowney fanned hitters for the final out of the inning.
The Grayhounds jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning when Mia Ruther and Bryanna Mehaffy came around to score on Emily Bloomer’s single to center that got under a charging Teryn Parsons’ glove. Heather Geiger sacrificed Bloomer home before Lowney slammed the door shut striking out Ali Bivens, the 8th batter of the inning.
FMHS answered in the bottom half with four runs of their own. Lowney started with a double to dead center, followed by Olivia Williams’ single to left that scored Lowney. Kylee Cashman came in as a courtesy runner and advanced when Lexi Schmidt walked. Kamryn Bailey reached on an error at second to load the bases and then Cashman scored on a wild pitch by Alivia Fawcett. Sadie Smithburg walked and then Daylan Wondra advanced the runners on a fielders choice. Parsons singled to right scoring Bailey and Sadie Smithburg.
Burlington went scoreless in the top of the 2nd, but Fort Madison extended the lead to 5-3 in the bottom half of the second when Bailey singled to center scoring Williams.
The Grayhounds put on four in the top of the third highlighted by a 3-run zip homer to right by Callie Anderson just clearing the fence and the Hounds trailed 6-8. Smithburg walked to start the inning, was moved into scoring position on a Wondra single to center, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center.
Lowney held Burlington scoreless in the fourth inning and the Hounds went scoreless in the bottom of the fourth. Ruther and Mehaffy scored in the top of the 5th and Bloomer, who was walked came around to score on a Lowney wild pitch to put Burlington up 11-6.
Fort Madison jumped right back into action hitting through the lineup starting with a single to right by Wondra and a double to right by Parsons, followed by a walk, loaded the bases for Lowney who flew out to center, but not deep enough to score Wondra. Wondra scored on a wild pitch and then Williams ripped a line drive to right center scoring two. Schmidt then followed with a single, Bailey walked, and Jada Lamm lined out to center, again not deep enough to score Williams. But Smithburg cleaned up the bases with a bloop double to right that fell just inside the foul line between the charging right fielder and 1st baseman scoring two more. Wondra than flied to deep left center to end the inning with the Hounds up 12-11.
“This was fun to watch,” Schmidt said. “We had people at the plate with a look of confidence in their eyes. Shyla Farmer was in there and you could just see she was there to get a hit. Teryn Parsons had some good hits.”
Burlington got back on the board when Anderson came around to score after reaching on an error by Wondra at second to tie the game at 12s. The Hounds went scoreless in the bottom of the sixth but returned the favor in the top of the 7th where Lowney through just 13 pitches to retire the side including a walk. FMHS went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. Bloomer started the ninth for the Hounds with a solid single to right, but Lowney got the next two hitters to ground out and fanned Fawcett to end the inning, setting up the bottom of the ninth when she crushed the 0-1 pitch to win the game.
Lowney said she was trying to keep the Grayhounds off balance toward the end of the game.
“They were popping a lot of the pitches up so I kept trying to give them more of a drop pitch to keep it on the ground,” she said.
She said she hopes the win, coupled with the seven inning affair with Fairfield Monday night, will give the girls a boost.
“I definitely hope so,” Lowney said. “These were good wins and it needs to bring about our confidence a bit.”
The Hounds, now 4-10 on the season, blew the Grayhounds out in game one 14-2, highlighted by Lowneys 4-for-4 performance at the plate including a home run, two doubles and three RBIs. Bailey added a homer and Schmidt got the win. The Hounds put a whopping nine runs on the board in the first inning to set the tone in that game.
Schmidt said the team still has some tweaks to make on defense where a couple of errors again kept innings going, but he said it’s getting better.
“We got into the 7th inning with Fairfield and we hadn’t done that in the past four games and now we get these two wins so I hope that picks the girls up a bit,” he said.
“We still have some things to work on on defense. I’d hoped we’d have more of that cleaned up by now.”
The Hounds close out a five-game home stand with a single game against Wapello Wednesday night before heading to the Davenport West tournament this weekend.