Benton stays poised after leadoff homer, cruises in regional final

Top-ranked Bobcats return to state softball tournament

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VAN HORNE — New Hampton’s Jessie Crooks hit a leadoff home run to center field, and for a brief moment the Chickasaws held a 1-0 lead. That moment lasted as long as it took Amber Fiser to strike out the next three batters to end the inning, as shortstop Alyssa Weibel hit a home run to dead center on the first pitch she saw to tie the game.

The top-ranked Bobcats took the game, and their 40th win of the year, 10-1, for a state-tournament berth.

The home run was just the 19th run the Bobcats have allowed all season.

Fiser then gained control, and struck out the next three batters in the top of the second en route to a 17-strikeout, one-hit complete game. Aside from the home run, only one other ball the Chickasaws put in play made it past the infield, a fly out to center.

Of course, Fiser said she’s had better outings.

“My highest one I’ve ever gotten was 20 (strikeouts),” Fiser said. “It’s huge, having a great offense and defense behind me, I know even if I get down a run, they’ll have my back and support me.”

And support her the offense did.

The Bobcats had another home run from Jessica Heilman to lead off the second inning, and Fiser helped herself by reaching on an error and scoring in the third. The Bobcats tallied six runs in the sixth inning to push the lead to 10-1 and prompt a chant of “uno mas” from students in the outfield as one run would have ended the game on the 10-run rule.

As they’ve done on 39 other occasions this season, the Bobcats turned in a dominant performance.

“Our team is focused, they want to get back to Fort Dodge, they want to do play as well as they can and get back to the championship,” coach Eric Stenberg said.

He said getting back to Fort Dodge is a relief for his team, and now the season becomes about the three games in the tournament, not the 42 before it.

“We’ve had a target on our back the entire time, for these girls to come out and play calm and collected shows a lot about their character,” Stenberg said.

The Bobcats said the win was not without work, however, they survived a first inning scare and commanded for the rest of the game.

“We went in with the mind-set that we weren’t going to just get the win we were going to have to work for it,” Jaicee Lyons said. “We started hitting the ball good and just did our thing.”

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