Ending on a high note
West Marshall places 7th at state
The West Marshall softball team entered the day playing in the early game for its consolation semifinals in the Class 3A tournament, as it faced off with No. 4 Humboldt, which was upset in its first-round matchup by Center Point-Urbana.
The Trojans suffered from some early jitters and tired legs in the first couple innings, leading to a 5-3 loss to Humboldt, but they had one last shot at taking home a victory as they played in the seventh-place game on Wednesday afternoon.
Of course, that game would be against four-loss Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, which entered the tournament as the second-ranked team in the state. Despite the daunting task, however, West Marshall (34-8) was able to end its season triumphantly, taking a 3-1 victory over the Nighthawks.
Trojans senior Kallie Malloy, who pitched six innings of one-run, four-hit softball against BHRV, said finishing the season with a win was a great way to cap off her final year wearing the black and gold.
“It feels really good knowing we all just worked together and all of our hard work paid off throughout the season,” she said between posing for photos with her team’s new trophy. “I am just really proud of my team, we worked really hard for this.”
That work showed throughout the tournament, as West Marshall played a little better in each of its games. After committing five errors against No. 1 Davenport Assumption in the first round, the girls only had three errors in their loss to Humboldt and none in their win over the Nighthawks.
The Trojans actually found themselves down 1-0 after the third inning against BHRV (32-5), and while a team with less leadership might have panicked, West Marshall just kept plugging away and tied the game back up in the top of the fourth.
One of the loudest voices of leadership in the dugout was senior Georgia Porter, and she said, even though they had fallen behind, the girls never gave up.
“It wasn’t a bad mentality at all. I am kind of the cheerleader in the dugout, I am yelling at people saying ‘hey let’s cheer, hey she’s up to bat’, so it wasn’t bad at all,” she said. “We got right back in the game so that was good too.”
With the game still tied at one in the top of the fifth, junior Brooke Snider stepped to the plate with two runners on base, knowing her team hadn’t led at any point of the tournament so far. She also knew she was 2-for-2 already in the game, and that wasn’t stopping any time soon.
Snider blasted a double to deep center field that was ultimately dropped by the BHRV outfielder, bringing in Emma Meyer and giving West Marshall their first lead of the tournament.
“I knew in the first two games my bat wasn’t working as well and I was too into the game, thinking about it too much, so once I figured out to just calm it down and watch the pitches come in and stop swinging at every pitch I learned that the pitches weren’t coming in as quick as they seemed,” Snider said of her approach that led to her 3-for-3 line against the Nighthawks. “Then I ended up getting the hits that I usually get.”
The Trojans would end up scoring one more run in the fifth, with Katie Price crossing the plate off a Karisa Blocker groundout, and they would hold on for the 3-1 victory and seventh place in the 3A bracket.
West Marshall head coach Todd Verwers said, while his girls obviously would have preferred to play for a state title, this was a nice way to end the season.
“It’s not the same as the championship game but we had a chance to win the last game of the year and we were able to do that,” he said after the trophy ceremony. “We got our 34th win — another school record — so you know, all those great teams from the past that did their thing, hopefully we are establishing something here now that it’s these girls’ time and we can build off that tradition and that legacy that was a little dormant.”
In the first game of the day, the Trojans dug themselves an early hole by handing Humboldt (33-5) three runs off two errors and two hits. They continued to fight back though, eventually brining the deficit to only two runs after the third inning, but they couldn’t muster much offensively in the final four frames.
Eighth-grader Loran Nicholson started on the mound for West Marshall against the Wildcats, but it was junior Grace Porter who shined toeing the rubber for the Trojans, finishing the final four frames allowing only three hits and one run off a homer in the seventh.
“Grace pitched great the first game this morning, she gave up only three hits and only one run and she hadn’t pitched in a while,” Verwers said. “She just took the ball and went, and there were no questions from her, she just went and did it.”
With the odd 10 a.m. start and the doubleheader, Verwers decided to run a different lineup in their first game to give some of his younger kids experience and rest Malloy for the final game that afternoon.
“We got some young kids some experience this morning and had a chance to win that game too,” he said. “We played the right way, I knew Kallie could use a little more rest and to get on her legs and get them loosened up and not have to go so early in the morning because we weren’t awake, we weren’t ready to go.”
Leaving a hole
While there are only three seniors leaving the squad this season, all three of those seniors were huge for the success of West Marshall softball. Verwers said that was on display from all three Malloy, Georgia Porter and Kylie Cripps in their final day of play.
“One thing about today, the seniors all stepped up and showed up,” he said. “Kylie had a big hit for us, she had some good base running for us, she really accepted her role on our team. It wasn’t the role she wanted, I understand that, but she has been great. She did what she needed to do for us and she never complained. She showed up and she played.
“Georgia and Kallie are invaluable, we are not here right now without either one of those two. That’s just the truth, that’s the reality of it. Both are going on to college to play so you know they are quality players and quality people. What a bar to set as far as pitching goes and what a bar to set as far as catchers and the consistency and ability to play another position when you need a day off but we can still keep your bat in the lineup. That trio has been a pleasure.”
As for their thoughts on leaving their mark on the program, but Malloy and Porter said playing for West Marshall softball has been the time of their lives, and they will cherish both the good and the bad moments from their times as Trojans.
“It has definitely been a roller coaster with some ups and downs but it has definitely all paid off,” Malloy said. “It has been great this past year and all the years before that, I am just very proud of my team.”
“It means a lot to win the last one, definitely,” Porter said, fighting back tears.
Filling the gap
While those departing the team will truly be missed, West Marshall softball isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Last time the Trojans made the state tournament was in 2003, their second-straight appearance after placing in 2002.
Verwers said this team has a shot at accomplishing that same feat next season, should the stars align and the girls continue to develop.
“We have to get better defensively, we have to hit better, and we have to establish our pitching staff. Those are the three secrets to every team, so those are the three we have to figure out,” Verwers said. “We will take a little time off, just like everybody does, but when it comes time for pitchers and catchers I am sure we will plug away and figure it out.
“Now we have to find those kids that can take those positions and those roles and go with it. They are there, we just have to figure out who they are, but we are definitely going to miss the seniors.”
Snider, one of those returners who will have a hand in any future success for the Trojans, said she hopes the team’s finish this year inspires more people to come out and contribute in seasons to come.
“I hope it definitely shows the younger people we have a good team and you can definitely play,” she said. “Once you start getting in to it you just roll with it, and once you get going with each other you learn a lot of things. We just kept going as a team.”
Monday, July 17
Dav. Assumption 10, West Marshall 0, 6 inn.
Center Point-Urbana 14, Humboldt 2, 5 inn.
Tuesday, July 18
Albia 9, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 6
Mount Vernon 11, Sioux Center 5
Wednesday, July 19
Humboldt 5, West Marshall 3
Sioux Center 6, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 5
Humboldt 10, Sioux Center 0, 6 innings
West Marshall 3, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 1
Thursday, July 20
Davenport Assumption (42-1) vs. Center Point-Urbana (30-10), 3:30 p.m.
Albia (29-8) vs. Mount Vernon (29-15), 5:30 p.m.
Friday, July 21
Third-place game, 5:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:09 p.m.