Lady Hounds stand alone as SEC champs



BURLINGTON - The lead here could be one of two things.

No. 1 - The Fort Madison Lady Hounds are the Southeast Conference outright champions for the first time in 12 years, or...

No. 2 - The Lady Hounds sent a pretty strong message for the Class 4A Regionals that start next week.

Fort Madison shut out Burlington 3-0 in the first game of its regular season finale and then put an exclamation point on the year with a 7-5 win in the nightcap to wrap up a 14-2 regular season.

Fort Madison went 13-2 in their final five games, capping one of the best stretches the team has had under Head Coach Jared Rehm's five-year tenure.

His daughter Neeley Rehm went seven innings in the first game, throwing a gem, giving up just five hits and walking only one while fanning three in the shut out. Rehm also had the game-winning hit in the top of the fourth when her single to left scored Lexi Whaley for a 1-0 lead.

Lauryn Helmick tripled after Macey McLees was caught stealing, wiping out a potential run with the first out of the inning. She would get caught trying to score on Elle Ruble's fielder's choice and a ground out to first ended the rally.

It was a pitcher's duel the whole way, with neither team scoring again until the sixth when Fort Madison put up two insurance runs. Whaley and Rehm led off with back-to-back singles and Helmick drew a walk to load things up.

Cashman would fan for the first out and Whaley would get caught too far off the bag on a throw down from home for the second out before Ruble got plunked to load things up again. Taylor Johnson singled, scoring McLees and Helmick to set the final 3-0.

Rehm would give up just a single the rest of the way to seal the win.

Erika Kruse was 2-4 at the plate along with Whaley, who had a run scored. Rehm had two hits and and an RBI, Helmick had two hits, and Johnson was 1-3 with 2 RBIs.

In the second game, with out-right conference title already in hand with the win in the opener, Fort Madison found themselves down 4-0 going into the top the fifth when the bats got going again.

The Lady Hounds would put up seven runs in the fifth and sixth and hold off the Grayhounds as Kruse kept BHS in check, allowing one run over the final three innings.

In the fifth, Taylor Johnson led off with a single and swiped second before Logan Johnson hit an RBI single to left to make it 4-1. Emily Steffensmeier laced a double to center moving Logan Johnson to third and putting two in scoring position.

Kruse would sacrifice plating Johnson and moving Steffensmeier up before Whaley kept her productive night at the plate going, singling to left to score Steffensmeier, cutting the lead to one at 4-3 before the Grayhounds got out of the inning.

Kruse would give up a walk to start the bottom half but got the next three hitters on a pop up and two ground outs to wrap up the fifth.

In the sixth, Ruble got on with a one-out single and Taylor Johnson reached on an error. Logan Johnson would fly out to right moving Ruble to third. Steffensmeier took a pitch to allow Johnson to move up to second, and the centerfielder singled back to center to score both Johnson and Ruble to give the Hounds a 5-4 lead.

Kruse then blasted a 1-0 pitch deep to center for her SEC-leading 12th home run of the year for a 7-4 lead. Whaley would double and Helmick would walk, both with two outs, but a ground out ended the inning. Kruse's homer put her in the top five in the state with round-trippers.

Kruse would allow a run in the bottom of the sixth but would button things down in the seventh for the win.

Helmick went three innings giving up three runs, two earned on five hits, and walking two. Kruse came on and gave up three hits and two runs, both earned, while fanning two and walking four to get the win.

Fort Madison will take on Keokuk in the first round of 4A Region 7 action July 7 at 7 p.m. at Fort Madison. The winner will travel to Burlington in the second round for a July 9 regional semifinal. The regional championship will be played on June 12 at a site to be determined, but according to rankings and favored teams, would be played in Tiffin hosted by Clear Creek-Amana.

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