IOWA CITY — The first one was sort of just a pop fly, it seemed. The second one was absolutely crushed.
Iowa City High’s softball team did what Iowa City High’s softball team does Tuesday night in its Class 5A regional final. That’s hit home runs and get good pitching from Ayana Lindsey.
The sophomore threw a four-hit shutout, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a homer that proved to be enough offense in a 2-0 win over Dubuque Hempstead in a Class 5A regional final. That’s back-to-back state tournament trips for sixth-ranked City High, which won only seven games just four years ago.
It won a Mississippi Valley Conference divisional title this season for the first time since 1998. Not bad.
“Helping build this softball program has brought a lot of joy to my life,” Lindsey said. “Working with these girls to help bring the team up where it is now is amazing. I can’t even put it into words.”
City High (34-7) espouses an “elevate and celebrate” motto at the plate, leading 5A in homers. Lindsey elevated a pitch from Hempstead starting pitcher Malarie Huseman just over the fence down the left-field line to get her club crazy early momentum.
That was her 18th long ball of the season, second in the state.
“I think that helped the whole team,” she said. “It gave us a boost of confidence. I knew we could do it all. Right there, that set the pace for everybody.”
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Junior second baseman Keli Potter led off the City High second by launching a majestic drive down the left-field line that short-hopped an equipment shed that sits a solid 30 feet or so beyond the 185-foot sign.
“I don’t know. That was pretty good, I guess,” she said. “I think that was my fourth one, maybe my fifth. I just play it as it comes, you know?”
It was her fifth of the season, by the way.
“There’s a chart,” Coach Jeff Koenig said. “We know that if we score first, score with two outs, if we answer back in an inning where they scored, if we score more than two in an inning, we’ve got, like, an 85-percent chance of winning the game. We took care of square one in the very first at-bat, then we extended the lead on Potter’s home run.”
These teams played a doubleheader early in the season, with City High winning one game in extra innings and the other with a run in the seventh. Hempstead (33-8), ranked 11th, had baserunners in every inning against Lindsey, though only one got as far as third base.
That came with two outs in the seventh inning. City High’s defense, which struggled in an extra-inning escape of Davenport West in a regional semifinal, was air tight here, with Makayla Ribble especially impressive at the hot corner.
She fielded a grounder off the bat of Hempstead’s Kaylie Springer and threw to first for the final out, setting off a rather subdued celebration. These girls apparently have their sights set on big things this coming week at Fort Dodge.
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