Prep Softball

Linn-Mar advances, and now regional softball road gets tougher

Lions blank Washington, gear up for regional-semifinal challenge at No. 2 Kennedy

MARION — The Linn-Mar Lions advanced by decision, not by knockout. And now, the degree of difficulty rises exponentially.

Linn-Mar took advantage of six Cedar Rapids Washington errors and earned a Class 5A softball regional quarterfinal victory, 6-0, Thursday night at Oak Ridge Middle School.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to do what it takes to advance,” outfielder Ariana Rolle said. “I wish we’d have had some more timely hits. We hit the ball hard, but they made some plays to hold us down a little bit.”

The Lions (22-19) advance to Saturday’s regional semifinal against No. 2 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (33-5). The Cougars swept the regular-season doubleheader, 6-1 and 5-0, May 29.

Linn-Mar managed just three hits, none of which left the infield. But it’s a win, and in the postseason, no apologies are necessary.

“I told the girls, it’s survive and advance,” said Linn-Mar Coach John Begley, who picked up the 699th win of his 24-year career. “We were able to use three pitchers to keep them all fresh for Saturday.

Katie Smith started and went three innings, followed by Madison Beard (three innings) and Briley Berning (one). Beard retired eight of the nine batters she faced, striking out five and yielding one hit.

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“We expected to win tonight and allow everybody to get a couple innings in,” Beard said. “It helps with momentum and preparation for Saturday. I was able to come in and let the defense do the work.”

Linn-Mar broke in front with a first-run tally, with Carly Rima reaching on an infield hit, advancing to third on an error off the bat of Rolle, then scoring on Ally Johnson’s ground out.

Three errors added up to three second-inning runs that effectively put the game out of reach at 4-0, then Beard drove home Kennedy Rentschler with a sacrifice fly in the third. Rentschler scored on a wild pitch in the fifth.

Washington retired at 2-37. The record might not indicate it, but the Warriors made major progress this season. The Warriors scored 47 runs this season, compared to four last year, and their ERA dropped from 36.34 to 9.27.

“If you take the errors away, it’s a 1-0 ballgame tonight,” said Washington Coach Amy Bautista, who started five eighth-graders Thursday. “The girls didn’t leave anything behind. Mady (Meeker) pitched her best game of the season.”

LINN-MAR 6, CEDAR RAPIDS WASHINGTON 0

Class 5A Regional Quarterfinal, at Oak Ridge Middle School

C.R. Washington 000 000 0 — 0 4 6

Linn-Mar 131 010 x — 6 3 1

Mady Meeker and Deja Redmond. Katie Smith, Madison Beard (4), Briley Berning (7) and Charli Patten. W — Beard (9-3). L — Meeker (1-16).

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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