This one stings

Crucial plays end Central Lee Lady Hawks' year in upset bid at No. 7. WB/ND


WEST BURLINGTON - This one will hurt for a while.
Central Lee's Lady Hawks gathered just behind first base in right field and many looked up to the sky to try to keep from weeping. It worked for some but not others. The Hawks had just fallen 4-3 to No. 7 West Burlington/Notre Dame in the Class 3A Region 8 semifinals at Barb Carter Field in West Burlington.
The win gives West Burlington a chance to avenge a loss in the region 8 semifinals in 2021 to Davis County. The two meet again on Tuesday in West Burlington.
For Central Lee, the loss is bitter.
Trailing 3-1 headed into the sixth inning, Alix Congdon doubled to right field to open the inning and Meghan Hopp singled on a hard liner to center that scored Congdon. Kenna Sandoval came up and fanned on three fastballs up in the zone, but on the third pitch Hopp took off for second on a delayed steal that seemed to catch the Falcons off guard, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Lauren Summers struck out Shanna Buford for the second out, but eighth grader Marie Young came through big with another RBI single to center to score Hopp and tie the game.  Bella Steffensmeier would ground out to short to end the rally and set up a dramatic bottom half.
Sophie Turner, who went the distance for Central Lee, got the Falcons' Isabella Blaufuss to fly out to center and then gave up a single to Anna Engberg to center. Kylee Logan followed with a double to the gap in right center but Engberg was held up at third.  With runners at 2nd and 3rd, WB's Riley Richards popped up to second base. With first base open the infield fly rule was not in effect and the ball dropped for an error loading the bases.
Lauren Krieger then drove in what proved to be the game-winner with a soft single down the right field line to score Engberg for a 4-3 lead. Logan was thrown out trying to score from second on the play to end the inning.
Summers then went out and got three pop fly outs to end the game in the top of the seventh.
West Burlington opened the game with two runs in the bottom of the first when Reagan Engberg led off with a single and Krieger moved her to third on a bunt. Kenna Sandoval just missed getting Krieger at first on the throw.  Summers then drove in Engberg, and Elise Oleson followed with another single to center, scoring Krieger and leaving Summers at third with no outs.
With the Hawks knowing that Oleson would be going on the pitch, Central Lee Head Coach Tiffany Woodruff called a timeout to set up a play. On the pitch, catcher Steffensmeier threw down to short to entice Summers to head for home and Central Lee was able to make the throw home to get Summers at the plate. A fly out to center cut West Burlington's rally short.
"We didn't even practice the one from short to home. I called a time and said we gotta do  something with first and third. so I called the play and told the girls we needed some good throws," Woodruff said.
With the Falcons leading 2-0 going into the second inning, both teams went three-up, three-down. The Hawks would get things going in the top of the third when Jaci Hawk singled on a hard infield grounder to short. Bailey Schwartz would move her over with a sacrifice bunt, and then Turner laced a double down the right field line scoring Hawk. Turner tried to stretch the double into a triple and was thrown out by a couple steps at the corner.
"We practiced that to get them to come off at second and stop on plays like that to draw that throw in. Then it's a 50-50 shot and she just kept going, but that's on me. Could have been a 4-4 ball game, but it is what it is," Woodruff said after the game.
Congdon would follow with a long single to center in the next at bat, and Hopp would work a walk to put two runners on. But a strikeout ended the rally with Central Lee down 2-1.
The Falcons would make it 3-1 when Madalynn Knapp scored on an RBI single from Oleson. Knapp reached on an error at short and was moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Turner would give up back-to-back singles with two outs but Oleson would get caught trying to steal home on a passed ball with a quick tag by Turner covering the plate to end the inning.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth. West Burlington got a single in the fifth, but Turner quickly got out of the inning setting up the sixth inning drama.
Woodruff was short but poignant after the game.
"They did their job and we did ours," she said. "This is the most intense game we've had against West Burlington in a long frickin' time. Since 2009."
Hopp said it was bitter to end the season that way.
"I definitely feel like after the last game when we were so close, we felt we could  win this. Everyone on the team knew we could do it so we were up and ready the whole time. We just came up a little short," Hopp, in her final season, said after the game.
"This is the closest we've played them in more than 10 years and being this close to winning just sucks."
But she said the journey with fellow seniors Turner and Bella Steffensmeier has been a rewarding one.
"I've played with them since 10U and we've always been really tight-nit. Today we were together-  it just sucks that it's over."
Turner said in the sixth inning, despite all that was taking place, she was just trying to locate her pitches and get out of the inning.
"I was just hoping to hit my spots and knew the defense would back me up," an emotional Turner said after the game.
"I think we came ready to play. We just wanted to beat them and it didn't end the way we wanted. But it was a good season. It's been an awesome ride playing since we were very young - every sport together - and we have that great bond."
Woodruff said Turner's presence on the mound will be missed.
"She's a phenomenol pitcher and we'll miss her next year," she said.
Congdon led the Hawks at the plate going 2 for 3. Hopp, Turner, Hawk, and Young had the other hits. Young, Turner, and Hopp each had an RBI in the loss. Turner (12-7) went six innings surrendering 11 hits, two earned runs, and struck out two.
The Hawks end the year 18-8 and 9-3 in the SEI Superconference South division, good enough for second place.

West Burlington/Notre Dame, softball, Central Lee, girls, Lady Hawks, Pen City Current, Tiffany Woodruff, Megan Hopp, Sophie Turner, sports, SEI Superconference, Region 8, IGHSAU, athletics, Central Lee Lady Hawks, scores, Falcons, West Burlington/Notre Dame Falcons,


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