BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – Central Lee head coach Tiffany Woodruff was all smiles as she proclaimed her Lady Hawks Lee County “champions” Friday night.
“I call it the Lee County Championship. We beat Keokuk and Fort Madison so there we go. Lee County Championship right there,” she said Friday after the Hawks swept a doubleheader with Fort Madison at home 8-3, 9-8.
The nightcap was a thriller under the lights.
Meghan Hopp laced a line drive in the bottom of the seventh, that Fort Madison’s Allyson Helmick tried to get to on the fly. The ball slipped under her glove and to the fence scoring Halo Arrowood all the way from first base to end the game.
In the previous at bat, the Lady Hawks’ Daly Brisby just missed ending the regular season of her senior year with a walk-off two-run homer. Brisby was facing a 1-2 count and sent a shot about 230 feet down the left field line to an uproar for the Central Lee faithful, but the ball was ruled to have landed in foul territory. Brisby would then line out to first for the first out of the inning.
The Hawks tied the game with no outs when Zoe Eschman singled to short and moved to third on an Arrowood’s bunt that was mishandled by the Fort Madison defense. As Fort Madison was resetting the defense, Eschman creeped down the third baseline and bolted for home being called safe on a bang-bang play at the plate.
Arrowood would steal second, then Hopp took a 3-1 pitch on a liner to the opposite field for the game winner.
Central got on the board in the first with two runs, the first on a squeeze bunt and the second when Hopp lined to left scoring Arrowood. They added a run in the third to go up 3-0 when Shanna Buford scored Hopp on a fielder’s choice at short.
The Lady Hounds would get one back in the fourth when Allyson Helmick would score on a passed ball with one out. But Hopp would get the next two hitters to retire the side up 3-1.
Lauryn Helmick would get out of the bottom half unscathed with Central scoring one.
Fort Madison would pick up five runs in the top of the fifth. Senior Ivy Geerdes smacked a one-out RBI single to center scoring Kylee Cashman from second. Following a strike out second out, Neeley Rehm hit a rocket grounder that got through short scoring Lexi Whaley and Geerdes.
Then senior Dalyn Wondra homered for the second time this week plating two and putting the Hounds up 6-3, before a pop out to center ended things in the fourth.
Wondra said she’s been trying to be more patient at the plate.
“I’ve been working hard trying to improve my hitting for years now. But everything is coming together now and starting to click, ” she said. “A big problem for me was that I was way out ahead of the ball, I’ve kind of learned to sit back a little more and see it in.”
Central Lee would get one back with two outs in the top of the fifth. The Lady Hawks loaded the bases with no outs, but Lauryn Helmick would get Sophie Woodley on strikes in four pitches and then Central Lee’s Andrea Benner grounded into a fielder’s choice at third where Hopp was forced out at home.
Sophie Turner would responded with an RBI single to center, but Helmick would work a pop out to the mound for the third out leaving the bases juiced.
Fort Madison would pick up two more in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Lexi Whaley and an RBI fielder’s choice by Geerdes to second.
The Lady Hawks again responded with two outs. Helmick got the first outs on fly balls in just four pitches but then the wheels fell off when Macy Watkins singled the first pitch she saw to left field moving Hopp, who walked prior, to second.
Buford then followed with an RBI single to left scoring Hopp to make it 8-5. Woodley would walk and Benner would double down the left field line bringing in Watkins and Buford for an 8-8 game setting up the seventh inning drama.
Hopp was 4 for 4 for the game with 2 RBI and two runs scored to lead the Lady Hawks in the second game. Eschman went 3 for 4 with two runs. Arrowood, Watkins, and Buford all had two hits in the game. Buford and Benner both had 2 RBI.
Hopp (1-2) started the game on the mound and then re-entered in the top of the 7th getting the win going 3 2/3 innings total giving up one earned run. She gave up three hits and two walks. Makayla Morrison then threw 1 2/3 giving up two earned runs on three hits and walking two while striking out one. Sophie Turner, who pitched the first game came on in relief throwing 1 2/3 giving up five earned runs on four hits, while fanning one.
Fort Fort Madison, Johnson, Rehm and Whaley all had two hits. Rehm, Geerdes and Wondra each had 2 RBI in the game. Kylee Cashman and Lauryn Helmick each had hits. Cashman scored twice.
Helmick (3-1) went the distance giving up 9 runs on 17 hits and three walks. She struck out four.
In the opener, Central jumped out to 5-0 lead through five innings, but Fort Madison would make a game up of in the sixth.
With one out, Geerdes doubled to right followed by a Wondra single moving Geerdes to third. Allyson Helmick would single up the middle scoring Geerdes and moving Wondra over to second. Rehm would move everyone over on the next at-bat with a fly to deep left.
Lauryn Helmick would then hit into a fielder’s choice back to pitcher Turner and Wondra was thrown out trying to score. Emily Steffensmeier would then single to right scoring two before ground out to short ended the threat.
The first three Lady Hawks would single off Helmick to start the bottom half of the sixth. Eschman’s single would drive in two and she would move to second on a throw home. Arrowood would lay down a bunt and Eschman who was moving on the pitch would come all the way around to score on the fielder’s choice to set the final at 8-3.
Woodruff said the sweep was important for Central Lee going into district’s next week.
“It’s huge just because we beat Keokuk and we wanted to win these two games so it get us back on track for West Burlington.,” she said.
The Lady Hawks were shut out by the Class 3A 13th-ranked Falcons on June 25, 4-0, with West Burlington getting three in the bottom of the fifth. The two clash in the first round of Region 8 regional action on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in West Burlington.
Fort Madison travels to Class 5A 8th ranked Muscatine on Tuesday for a double header and then takes on Keokuk at home in the opening of Region 7 action at 7 p.m.
Wondra said the district performance will depend on energy the Hounds were lacking Friday.
“As a team we;re playing and meshing well. Tonight it wasn’t really on though. We usually really have good energy and tonight just wasn’t a very good night for us,” she said.
“We’ll be fine in districts if everyone brings that higher level of energy we need.”