CEDAR RAPIDS — Momentum is a strange thing in athletics.
Sometimes you have it. Sometimes you don’t. Other times, it just hangs overhead, just waiting for a team to grab it.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier softball team grabbed hold of the momentum early en route to an 8-0 win over Keokuk on Tuesday to advance to the Class 4A state tournament.
“We put in a lot of hard work along the way,” Saints center fielder Charlotte Richards said. “That we finally made it to the state tournament feels amazing.
“We’re ready to do some damage in Fort Dodge.”
No. 11 Xavier will take on 10th-ranked Newton in a quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Xavier reached the regional finals the past two seasons, but just couldn’t quite get past that final hurdle. Hard work, communication and an attack mentality lead the Saints to their first state berth since 2010.
“They have been so relaxed and determined to come and do their job,” Saints Coach Nikki Gahring said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching to them all season.”
The Saints found themselves with a serious lack of momentum early. Keokuk’s Jaelyn Wood led off the game with a double and Michaela Davis followed with a single. With two on and no outs, the Chiefs seemed poised to take an early lead.
“The talk around the field helps a lot,” Saints pitcher Maria Steffen said. “Knowing that I have a fantastic defense behind me helps me stay calm. We can get out of anything.”
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Then, the pendulum swung to the home dugout. Wood tried to swipe third base, but Olivia Richards rifled a throw to third for the out. Charlotte Richards then caught a Jakayla Hall fly to center field and promptly returned the ball to the first baseman to catch Davis in a double play.
The Saints carried the momentum to the offensive side, putting up four runs on three hits in the home half of the first. In the bottom of the sixth, Olivia Richards smashed a three-run homer to center to punctuate the Saints’ win.