No. 7 Panthers rely on 8th-grade pitcher to silence Hawks’ bats

MANLY – South Hamilton’s postseason had been all about its destructive offense leading up to Friday’s Class 2A Region 3 semifinal against seventh-ranked Central Springs.

Leave it to an eighth grader to change the narrative.

Nothing – not a blooper, a bleeder, a squib, a liner, a bomb – fell for the Hawks, as their quest to reach the state tournament came to an end in a 3-0 loss to the Panthers.

Central Springs rookie pitcher Hannah Ausenhus tossed her third no-hitter and her nine strikeouts upped her season total to an even 200.

Not bad.

“I’d put her up against the best pitchers we’ve seen all year,” South Hamilton head coach Laura Read said after her club bowed out at 16-17 on the season. “She had a high ball that had a natural rise to it and we seemed to have trouble laying off it. When we did make contact we popped it up.

“We knew that she had a really good ERA and we knew she was an eighth grader. We had scouted that she had a pretty good change-up, which she didn’t even throw.”

The Hawks outscored their first two regional opponents 28-1, bashing 28 hits in the process.

Central Springs (26-5) jumped in front for good in the first inning when Anna Dietrich ripped a double off Hawks’ hurler Ady Wintermote and eventually scored on a passed ball.

Hailee Ausenhus, the older sister of the Panthers’ pitcher, cranked a solo home run in the fourth inning, and Kelli Wilson drove in another insurance run in the fifth.

That was more than enough for Hannah Ausenhus, who allowed just three base runners on walks.

Central Springs will take on Manson-Northwest Webster (10-17) this evening in Mason City for one of the eight coveted tickets to next week’s state tournament in Fort Dodge.

South Hamilton said goodbye to seven seniors – Kenzie Busch, Kali Lucas, Kayla Lucas, Tiffany Jacobson, Allyson Ervin, Kayla Carlson and Carly Swenson. Busch missed the season after suffering a torn ACL; the other six were multiple-year starters.

“I’m just really proud of the girls for the way they fought … they continuously wanted to learn and get better,” Read said.