Hawks, Lynx will be road underdogs in regional quarterfinals this week

SH?heads to Earlham tonight, WCHS?at Boone on Thursday

WCHS senior Haley Flaws (left) beats out an infield single against Boone last month. Flaws leads the Lynx into their Class 4A regional showdown against the Toreadors on Thursday. She tops the team in batting at .467 and is third in the class in stolen bases with 37. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The road to Fort Dodge and the state softball tournament begins across the state in all five classes this week, and both area teams will start their journeys on the road.

South Hamilton will travel to Earlham to take on Earlham in a Class 2A Region 3 quarterfinal this evening at 7 p.m. Webster City will make the familiar trek to Boone to face the Toreadors in a 4A Region 3 quarterfinal Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Both the Hawks (11-15) and Lynx (16-14) will face uphill battles against opponents loaded with offensive weaponry.

South Hamilton, which enters the postseason on a two-game slide, will likely hand the ball to senior pitcher Katie Johnson, a veteran of the postseason who has pitched in big-game situations before. Johnson was in the circle two years ago when the Hawks faced a loaded Pella Christian squad in a regional semifinal.

She’ll face an Earlham lineup that ranks eighth in 2A in batting average (.374), and fourth in both hits (343) and runs scored (287). The Cardinals (25-11) average 9.8 hits and 8.2 runs per game.

South Hamilton catcher Hailey Diersen (right) looks to tag out Greene County’s Megan Carey (4) at the plate last Friday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Earlham has plenty of power at its disposal. Taylor Hipsley (.545 batting average), Alli Boyle (.495), Katelynn Voss (.402) and Alexis Bean (.365) have combined to belt 13 home runs and drive in 152 runs.

Johnson enters the postseason with a 8-6 record and boasts a 2.98 ERA.

But South Hamilton is no slouch at the plate when it’s engaged, and the Hawks will likely face an Earlham hurler in Kelsey Tibbs that is prone to giving up runs. Tibbs is 12-6 on the season, but owns a 4.64 ERA.

The Hawks scoring potential comes from the top of its lineup, keyed by the power of Marla Grubb and Cortney Harris in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. Harris owns a team-best .404 average, while Grubb is right behind her at .402, and they’ve combined to smack four home runs and plate 39 runs.

Breanne Diersen (.391) and Lily Skartvedt (.351) also sit at the top of the South Hamilton lineup.

Tonight’s winner will advance to Friday’s regional semifinal in Ogden against either 15th-ranked Ogden, South Central Calhoun or Woodward-Granger.

WCHS (16-14), which is guaranteed its first winning season since 2013 when all-state pitcher Kaitlyn Biere was dominant inside the circle, will be out to topple Boone for the first time in three tries this season. The Toreadors picked up a 13-3 win over the Lynx at the Ogden tournament on May 26 and then captured an 11-6 win in Boone on June 12.

Don’t be fooled by the Toreadors’ record. At 13-19, they’ve struggled at times, but 17 of their losses are to ranked teams, including nine to opponents ranked in the top six in their respective classes.

Boone is led by freshman lead-off hitter and pitcher Emma Dighton, who sports a .461 batting average with eight home runs and 33 RBIs. In the circle, the hard-throwing right-hander is just 5-15 with a 3.79 ERA, but she limited the Lynx bats when she worked in relief during the second meeting in June.

Caitlynne Shadle is a left-hander who is a hard out for the Toreadors. She hits .425 with three dingers and 19 RBIs. Ellen Castle (.415) has swiped 25 bases.

Much like South Hamilton, WCHS will need the top of its order to produce if it wants to pull the upset. Lead-off hitter Haley Flaws leads the way, as she hits at a .467 clip, and she’s also third in the class in stolen bases with 37. She’s been thrown out just once.

Zoey Woodle (.406), Taylor McKinney (.375) and Kelly Stoakes (.380) will follow Flaws. Stoakes leads the team in doubles (10) and RBIs (27). McKinney has driven in 26 runs.

Jenna Miller will get the nod in the circle for the Lynx. The freshman right-hander owns a 10-9 record and 3.37 ERA. At the plate, Miller hits .344 with 17 RBIs.

Either Boone or WCHS will advance to Saturday’s regional semifinal where 12th-ranked Norwalk will await. Fourth-ranked ADM sits on the top side of the Region 3 bracket.