116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — From left to right, you’ve got Rock Solid, The Missing Link, The Charisma Queen and Miss Positivity.
That’s Caelynn Obleton at third base, Anna Streff at shortstop, Megan Heidelbauer at second and Hannah Gralund at first.
Senior, senior, senior, senior. All across the infield.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen out there that have played a long time, and that helps in making a big play,” Heidelbauer said. “We have a high collective softball IQ.”
And the Linn-Mar Lions have high aspirations at the state softball tournament, which begins Monday at the Rogers Sports Complex, Fort Dodge.
Fresh off a regional-final road upset (or was it?) at fifth-ranked Ankeny Centennial, No. 8 Linn-Mar (36-4) faces No. 4 Waukee Northwest (32-7) at 1:30 p.m.
“In a way, it’s sweeter when you win on the road,” Coach Lindsey Murray said. “You could hear them cheering from time to time on the ride home. They were passing the banner around.”
The Lions had that two-hour voyage home to relish a victory made that much sweeter due to the fact that they’ve felt slighted at the state level all season.
“You look at the rankings ... we only lost four games all season. That’s really good,” Gralund said. “We were ranked No. 8. It’s almost all Des Moines (suburban) teams above us.
“But we know what we’re capable of.”
Heidelbauer added: “You look at history, and we’re not up there, so people write us off.”
Linn-Mar’s history, honestly, is quite good. The Lions’ last state trip was in 2015, but when Murray wore a Lions uniform, this was a powerhouse.
The Lions were state runners-up when Murray — then Lindsey Digmann — was a senior in 2006.
“I got to go three times as a player,” Murray said. “This has never been about me. These seniors ... I wanted so bad for them to go, to show what eastern Iowa has, to show what Linn-Mar has.”
What Linn-Mar has is talented experience. Or experienced talent, however you want to look at it.
Obleton (“as solid as a rock,” according to Murray), Heidelbauer (“that teammate that will make you laugh when you need it, and support you when you need it”) and Gralund (“such a positive person)” — along with starting outfielder Claire Michael — have been with the program all the way through.
Streff played for Linn-Mar as an eighth-grader, then played club ball only the next three summers, before rejoining the Lions this summer.
“We kind of persuaded her when we were playing club,” Gralund said. “She said she was going out.
“’OK,’ I thought. ‘Perfect.’”
Streff, committed to play at the University of Iowa, called her return “all I expected it to be, and it’s been more. The relationships have been awesome. All of these girls know how to play ball.”
Regional semifinalists last year, the Lions stormed out of the gate this summer with 16 straight victories. One of the team’s buzzwords was “tenacity.”
Meaning ... ?
“It’s about never giving up,” said Obleton, who said precious little during a joint interview session Friday.
The Lions compiled a 28-2 record in the Mississippi Valley Conference and sped away with the Mississippi Division title.
They had some anxious moments in the regional semifinals against a two-win Cedar Rapids Washington outfit before breaking a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning, then powered past Centennial, triggering a happy ride home.
“It didn’t seem so long on the way back,” Gralund said. “We knew walking in there that we were going to win.”
And Team Tenacity doesn’t lack for belief as it embarks for Fort Dodge.
“We know we can beat those teams,” Gralund said. “We’re going out there to play, and we’re going for it.”