WEST DES MOINES - Momentum was often grabbed but never kept by the Marshalltown softball team against No. 8 West Des Moines Valley.
Every time the Bobcats grabbed an advantage, the Tigers bounced right back and eventually pulled away with a seven-run sixth inning during a 13-5 Class 5A Region 4 semifinal win here Saturday.
Valley hit three home runs, four doubles and cranked out 15 hits in all against MHS senior Lauren Mazour and will next play for a shot at the state tournament at home Tuesday against No. 9 Southeast Polk. The Rams defeated Des Moines Roosevelt 11-1 in six innings in Saturday's other semifinal.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown High School senior Madi Bellile walks off the field after West Des Moines Valley recorded the final out in its 13-5 win over the Bobcats during Class 5A regional semifinal softball action on Saturday in West Des Moines. Bellile finished with one hit and one run scored in the season-ending loss.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS sophomore Cassidy Blackford high-fives teammates on her way back to the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of the Bobcats’ Class 5A regional semifinal game with West Des Moines Valley on Saturday. Blackford hit two home runs in the game but MHS lost 13-5.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
"I was really happy with how our kids just didn't stop coming," Valley coach Tom Bakey said. "We knew it wouldn't be stylish. Marshalltown has been playing well, they have prideful seniors, they have been to the state tournament and they won't go down without a fight. We knew it was going to be a good game."
It was a good game through five innings. Then, Valley sent 12 batters to the plate, collected eight hits and crossed home plate seven times to pull away. Twelve of the 13 runs Valley scored in the game came with two outs.
"We just didn't play the way we can," Marshalltown coach Jeff Lamb said. "That kind of killed us. We had some mistakes that hurt us, and it just wasn't our day. The score got a little lopsided, but it was a good game up until that inning."
McKenzie Schuette hit her second home run of the game with one out in the sixth to get the big inning going. Callie Brown then tacked on a two-out, two-run home run before four straight singles led to two more runs for the Tigers. Schuette then came back up to the dish and ended her night with a two-run single that made it 13-5.
"We got some momentum going and they just couldn't pinch it off," Bakey said. "We got a couple of really big two-strike hits when Lauren (Mazour) was ahead in the count. We probably had six hits and two of the home runs with two strikes against us."
Mazour (11-13) took the loss in the circle for the Bobcats. She allowed 11 earned runs on 15 hits and struck out one while walking two.
The Bobcats were sparked early by sophomore Cassidy Blackford and Taylor Wagner.
Wagner singled with two outs in the first inning and then scored when Blackford crushed a ball into the baseball field's bleachers. Blackford added a solo home run in the fourth that cut the Tiger lead to 5-3. The Bobcat sophomore finished with two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored. Wagner added three hits and two runs in her final game in a Marshalltown uniform.
"She is a great player and she is going to be one hell of a player before she gets done here," Lamb said of Blackford. "There is nothing she can't accomplish. You'll hear about her a lot."
Valley answered Blackford's second home run with a run of its own in the fifth inning. With two outs, Katelyn Strauss doubled and then scored on Mack Jones' RBI single.
Marshalltown gained two more runs back thanks to two miscues in the field by the Tigers. An Emily DeVenney single and a Valley error on an infield poke by Madi Bellile forced Bakey to pull Tiger starter Rachel Bakey from the circle. Callie Brown gave up a single to Wagner that loaded the bases and then Bellile and Wagner both scored on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Quinn Goodman that was misplayed by Valley's shortstop.
"That never plays into it. I never get to play dad," said Bakey when asked if it was hard to take his daughter out of the circle in a playoff game. "When we get in the car, I'll probably get the look. We talked about her and Callie splitting everything out this year. It's just hard to get 21 outs. I was proud of Rachel's effort in her first playoff game."
But once again, Valley wouldn't let Marshalltown keep the momentum. Schuette's second blast of the game was the only run the Tigers (25-15) plated that didn't come with two outs in the game. Six runs in the sixth were with two outs as the Tigers muscled their way into the regional finals.
Marshalltown opened the sixth with a single but couldn't score after getting doubled up at first base. Bellile and Wagner each had two-out singles in the seventh but Blackford struck out to end the threat and the game.
"It wasn't always not being able to get the final out, but it was not getting early outs, too," said Lamb. "We can't give extra outs. We answered for the most part, but we didn't have an answer for the sixth inning."
Schuette, who hit in the No. 9 spot in the order, finished 3-for-4 with two home runs, five RBIs and three runs, while leadoff hitter Megan Rushing had two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored. Strauss added three hits, three runs and a walk, and Lexi Merritt and Jones also had two hits apiece.
Despite getting pulled with two outs in the fifth inning, Rachel Bakey (14-5) still earned the win. She allowed five hits, three earned runs and one walk while striking out five. Brown surrendered four hits and one earned run in the final 2 1/3 innings.
"We are playing our best softball right now," Coach Bakey said. "We are getting our best pitching, playing our most consistent defense and we are having our hottest hitting."
Marshalltown ends its season at 16-23. The program will say goodbye to eight seniors - Wagner, Mazour, Goodman, DeVenney, Megan Major, Madi Bellile, Morgan Bellile and Eisha Oden.
"I just hope the younger ones look at them and take things from them," Lamb said. "You won't have another group like them for a long time. You won't have another Taylor Wagner for a long time. You won't have another Lauren Mazour for a long time, and everyone all the way down."
Valley's Region 4 final against Southeast Polk will kick off at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will advance to the Iowa High School Girls State Softball Tournament. The two teams split 3-1 decisions in the previous two meetings this year.
"These kids have had a long standing history of playing against each other," Coach Bakey said. "It's a good rivalry, and I will be shocked if it's anything other than a two-run or less game. Both teams are capable of doing that. It could be 0-0 and the team that makes the first mistake could lose."
This was Lamb's final game as Marshalltown's head coach. He will now turn his attention to the same position at Clarke University. Wagner will extend her softball career at NCAA Division I Eastern Michigan University, while Mazour will play both volleyball and softball at Central College. Oden will run track and play volleyball at NCAA Division II Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minn. No. 2 and defending champion Ankeny beat Ames 10-1 in another regional semifinal, while Fort Dodge beat Sioux City East 12-0 in four innings, Waukee beat Des Moines Lincoln 11-5 and No. 5 Dowling Catholic took care of last year's runner-up - Des Moines East - 2-0. Valley has won six state championships in the program's history. The Tigers won titles in 1990, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010. They also took third in 2006 and 2009.