HAWKS ONE AND DONE
Grundy Center takes control with lead-off HR, never trails in regional quarterfinal
GRUNDY CENTER — Kyah Luhring came to the ballpark to play Wednesday night, and her Grundy Center teammates followed the senior’s lead.
Consequently, the Spartans’ season continues to suck in oxygen for the time being.
Luhring, the daughter of former Webster City High School head football coach Kurt Luhring and niece of South Hamilton head football coach Corey Klemp, turned on a Jessi Harms pitch and deposited it over the fence in left field for a lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the first inning, and while South Hamilton was able to draw even on several occasions, it was never able to sprint to the front in a Class 2A Region 4 quarterfinal.
Grundy Center (7-8) took the lead for good with two runs in the fifth inning and went on to end the Hawks’ season, 5-3.
“I always felt like if we could get that lead once, then we’d break it wide open. But we could never quite get over that hump,” South Hamilton head coach Harry McMaken said. “That first home run energized Grundy Center and gave them the thought they could beat us.”
The tears flowed freely from the eyes of Harms and Kylee Gunderson, the only seniors on South Hamilton’s roster, following the final out. They had hoped to be traveling to Ogden to take on the third-ranked Bulldogs in tonight’s semifinal round. Instead, it will be Grundy Center that will go upset hunting.
Harms did what she could offensively, as she drove in all three of South Hamilton’s runs on a pair of singles. But the right hander struggled with her control at times inside the circle; she walked five, including Spartans’ No. 9 hitter Jacque Kuester with the bases loaded in the fifth, and hit another batter.
Harms was tagged for seven hits and four earned runs. She struck out eight.
South Hamilton (7-7) collected seven hits off Grundy Center hurler Megan Beck. Emma Lewis joined Harms with a pair of singles. Tanna Thompson and Kaylee Oskvig both jumped aboard on infield singles.
The Hawks had numerous chances to change the outcome, but failed to convert with runners in scoring position in the first and second innings. They stranded five runners on base on the night.
“We’re better hitters than we showed (Wednesday night),” McMaken said. “We should have hit the ball better and we should have scored more runs.”
South Hamilton got back the Luhring dinger in the third courtesy of Harms’ first single. With Lewis standing on third following a lead-off base knock, Harms sent a rocket back up the middle that smacked off the leg of Beck inside the circle to bring Lewis to the dish.
Grundy Center answered with two runs in the bottom of the third to pull back ahead, 3-1. Allison Beenken drove a two-out pitch into center to bring in a run, and moments later a wild pitch allowed Lucy Lebo to score.
Harms again pulled the Hawks back even in the fifth, again with two outs. Her single into center scored Lewis and courtesy runner Makena Galetich, who sidestepped Spartans’ catcher Lyndi Bowen after she received the relay throw from Luhring.
But the momentum was short lived.
A lead-off walk to Megan Beck in the bottom of the fifth started a two-run surge for the Spartans. With runners at first and second with two outs, Bowen took an inside pitch and fisted it into no man’s land over the head of Gunderson at first. It squirted into the grass and allowed Lebo to race around from second with the go-ahead run. Harms then plunked Abby Hamaan and walked Kuester to push across an insurance run.
Megan Beck did the rest. She retired the final six South Hamilton batters to vault her team into the next round.
“It was not a good night of feeling out the pitcher,” McMaken said. “We adjusted and started making some solid contact, but we were hitting it right at people. And, defensively, they made a couple plays I just didn’t expect them to make.”
McMaken felt for his two seniors, but he also looked quickly ahead to next season when South Hamilton will return the bulk of its roster.
“Jessi is going to be a big cog to replace and Kylee’s leadership will be missed too, but we have a lot of girls with actual game experience coming back and that really bodes well for us,” he said. “If they do the work they should in the offseason, we should be OK next year.”
Grundy Center 5, S. Hamilton 3
Class 2A Region 4 Quarterfinal
Wednesday at Grundy Center
SH 001 020 0 — 3 6 2
GC 102 020 x — 5 7 1
Jessi Harms and Mackenzy Grady. Megan Beck and Lyndi Bowen. WP — M. Beck. LP — Harms. Multiple hits — SH: Harms, Emma Lewis; GC: Emma Beck, Allison Beenken. HR — GC: Kyah Luhring. RBI — SH: Harms (3); GC: Luhring, Beenken, Bowen, Jacque Kuester.