Photo by Jeff Yoder / Click here to view photo gallery
Your Prep Sports
FORT DODGE – After going 17 years between appearances City High was hoping for a slightly longer stay in its return to the state tournament.
City High had its first trip to state since 2001 shortened by a 4-0 loss to top-ranked Pleasant Valley in a Class 5A quarterfinal on Tuesday at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
The Little Hawks have no intentions of enduring a similar drought before their next state tournament berth.
“This was really important for our program, we came far this year and I think we can build on it next year,” City High sophomore Ayana Lindsey said. “I’m so happy to be here but I can’t wait to build on it next year.”
Most figured a City High squad with seven underclassmen in its lineup was a year away from a state tournament breakthrough.
The Little Hawks skipped ahead in the process, reaching the state tournament by navigating through a regional that featured second-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy and No. 15 Cedar Rapids Prairie.
City High (24-19) didn’t hang around at state as long as it would have liked.
Seniors Ellie Spelhaug and Alexia Lara combined on a three-hit shutout as defending champion Pleasant Valley (34-7) returned to the 5A semifinals for the third straight season.
Pleasant Valley will face No. 5 West Des Moines Valley (32-9) in the 5A semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
City High will close its season by facing seventh-ranked Johnston (27-11) in a consolation game at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“For a team with three freshman, three sophomores and one eighth grader starting we say’ hey we are going to come back and we won’t have to see that pitcher next year’,” City High coach Jeff Koenig said. “We will be alright, we will be alright. For us now it’s just to finish tomorrow and go into the offseason on a high note.”
City High got a two-out single from freshman Carey Koenig in the first inning but couldn’t move her.
Keli Potter had leadoff singles in the second and fifth but City High couldn’t come up with another hit in either inning.
“We got fooled a few times we did square up three or four of them, we hit a few of them hard but we needed seven or eight or nine to be in a game like this with the number one team in the state,” Koenig said. “They are the number one team in the state for a reason that’s probably one of the best pitchers in the state and we just couldn’t figure her out.”
Spelhaug allowed three hits and struck out five in five innings.
Lara struck out four in two hitless innings of relief while slamming the door on any chance of a City High comeback.
In a 9-7 loss to City High back on May 26 Lara gave up five runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings.
On Tuesday the only baserunner Lara allowed was a two-out walk to Ella Cook in the sixth inning.
“You have to adapt, you have to change it up with them,” Pleasant Valley coach Jose Lara said. “If the first time they beat you with a certain pitch you can’t go back to that pitch because they are going to beat you again so you have to change it up.”
Pleasant Valley took a 1-0 lead in the third when Carli Spelhaug singled with two out and scored when Emily Wood line a triple into the right center field gap.
Lara homered leading off the fourth to put Pleasant Valley up 2-0.
“We really did a nice job of keeping them as off balance as we could,” Koenig said. “That’s the team that runner-up two years ago, state champion last year and more than likely will be playing on Friday night.”
Pleasant Valley broke the game open in the fifth with two more two-out runs.
Back-to-back singles by Wood and Ellie Spelhaug and an intentional walk to Lara loaded the bases for Bell Luebken who lined the first pitch she saw into center field for a two-run single.
“I’m going to take my chance every time,” Koenig said of the intentional walk. “We saw Lara at the beginning of the season when we played and she just doesn’t get cheated when she is in there so I figured we’d take our chance.”
Lindsey took the loss in her state debut, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out three and walking one.
City High returns all nine starters and doesn’t have a senior on its roster.
“We are just going to keep working and keep pushing and keep grinding,” Lindsey said. “We are going to keep working as a team to get back to where we need to be.”
City High 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
Pleasant Valley 001 120 x – 4 9 0
W – Ellie Spelhaug L – Ayana Lindsey
3B – PV: Emily Wood
HR – PV: Alexia Lara