FORT DODGE — In North Linn’s first-ever state softball appearance, the Lynx are headed to the Class 2A championship game.
Top-ranked North Linn defeated No. 9 Mount Ayr 8-1 in the semifinals Wednesday at Rogers Sports Complex behind a dominant pitching performance from junior Abby Flanagan. North Linn will play No. 13 Alta-Aurelia (22-9) in the final at 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
Flanagan had a no-hitter through five innings. In the sixth, she promptly followed up allowing her first hit by inducing a double play. The only inning she had any issues in was the seventh, when the game was already out of reach with North Linn leading 8-0.
Flanagan had nine strikeouts through the first four innings and finished with 11.
“With Abby pitching, it’s not hard to believe (that we’re doing this),” said Grace Flanagan, Abby’s sister and North Linn’s catcher. “She’s one of the best pitchers in the state and we have a lot of faith in her.”
Grace has been catching for Abby for years.
“We’ve been playing with each other since third grade,” Grace Flanagan said. “We just know each other really well and it translates on the field.”
It took a little bit for the North Linn bats to wake up — Mount Ayr pitcher Caroline McAlexander had a perfect game going through three innings. Despite the lack of baserunners, North Linn was making contact at every at-bat.
In the fourth inning, the second time through the lineup, North Linn broke the game open with four runs on three hits. North Linn proceeded to add two runs in the fifth and two again in the seventh.
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“The cushion really helped, and our defense did a good job,” Grace Flanagan said. “It helps calm (Abby’s) nerves.”
Abby Flanagan was confident in her offense’s ability to get it going.
“I was pretty confident we’d get some runs,” she said. “Our team has done team bonding throughout the week and we’re feeling strong. We’re just going to try and keep it going.”
The team bonding includes board/card games called “Werewolf” and “Exploding Kittens,” which Abby Flanagan says are “very fun.”
These games help North Linn stay loose. But now that the Lynx are knocking at the door of a state title, it’s hard to ignore the stakes.
“Go big or go home,” Grace said. “This is our first time here in school history, so we didn’t know what to expect. But we’re getting the job done.”
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