MORRISON – In nine of the 13 half-innings at the Class 2A Morrison Regional championship, four batters or fewer went to the plate. Six of them were 1-2-3 innings, including back-to-back frames where Morrison pitcher Brooke Stralow struck out the Alleman side.
But two of the half-innings that weren't so quick overshadowed a pair of what were otherwise strong pitching performances from Stralow and Pioneer starter Dakota Stout.
After the Fillies scored five runs in the top of the second inning, Alleman turned around and plated 10 in the bottom of the fourth, then held on for a 10-7 regional championship victory at the Morrison Sports Complex.
"We've been in those situations before," Alleman junior Izzy Anderson said of the early deficit, "and we were confident that eventually, we'd get our bats going like we have all year."
It was the Fillies (24-5) who came out of the gate hot at the plate. Shannon Finneran doubled to lead off the game, then Allie Wiersema reached on an error on her sacrifice bunt attempt. Stralow's sac bunt moved them to second and third with one out, but Stout wiggled off the hook with a pair of groundouts.
She wasn't so fortunate in the second inning. Morrison sent 10 hitters to the plate in the frame, with Finneran and Wiersema drawing back-to-back bases-loaded walks. After another run scored on an error on Stralow's grounder, Chelsea Eads made it 5-0 with a two-run single to right.
"We were getting solid pitches to hit, right through the zone, so we were attacking early," Eads said. "But at the same time, we were being patient and waiting for the pitch we wanted. We just couldn't do it again."
Stout escaped further damage by inducing a popout, then left fielder Anna Wetherell saved a couple more runs with a running catch on Lauren Rice's liner to left.
Stralow, however, set down the Pioneers (27-6) in order for the third inning in a row, with her second consecutive frame striking out the side.
Stout matched the quick inning the next two frames, pitching around a two-out error in the third before throwing four pitches in a 1-2-3 fourth … and that seemed to spark something with the Alleman bats.
The top of the order came up in the bottom of the fourth, which turned out to be a 32-minute affair that saw 14 Pioneers come to the plate and 10 runs cross it. Anderson's two-run single after a walk and an error broke up Stralow's no-hitter, then the Fillies went to Rice in relief.
"We've always done that, all season long," Deter said. "When one of our pitchers gets into a little trouble, we switch to the other. Today wasn't any different."
But Rice struggled with her control, and Alleman took advantage. Abby Thompson followed a walk and a strikeout with an RBI single, then Stout walked to load the bases. Julia Thomer drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run, and the Fillies went back to Stralow.
But Caitlin DeWitte greeted her return with an RBI bloop base hit to tie the score at 5-all, before Wetherell and Ferrari – who started the inning – each had a two-run hit, Wetherell's a double, to give the Pioneers the lead.
"We knew it was now or never, pretty much, even though it was only the fourth inning," Anderson said. "Anna and Lexi both got on base, then I got that first hit, and I thought, 'OK, here we go.' Once we got rolling, everybody else followed suit."
Ferrari then scored on a two-out wild pitch to push the margin to 10-5.
"Once they got through the order, the second time through they came out swinging," Eads said. "When that happened, we couldn't get any outs in that inning, and we fell apart.
"And once Dakota got the lead, she came back out really pumped up, and we couldn't score enough runs to come back."
Morrison did mount a rally in the top of the sixth, as Emma Sitzmore reached on a third-strike wild pitch before Rachel Davis' fielder's choice erased her at second. Davis went to second on another wild pitch, then scored on Finneran's single up the middle.
Wiersema then greeted Alleman reliever Emily Hoffman with a double to left, before Finneran scored from third on Stralow's groundout. An Eads smash looked ticketed for center field, but Hoffman somehow managed to get her glove on it to end the threat.
Hoffman then pitched around Rice's one-out single in the seventh with a grounder to second and a comebacker to secure the win.
Stout (13-4) allowed two earned runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, with one strikeout and three walks. Hoffman allowed just two hits in an inning and two-thirds of relief.
Rice (9-1) got the loss in relief, striking out one and walking three while allowing a hit in a third of an inning. Stralow pitched the first three-plus innings and the final 2 2/3, finishing with 11 strikeouts and three walks, while giving up six runs (four earned) and four hits.
The Fillies start four freshmen and a sophomore, but their three seniors – Finneran, Wiersema and Eads – combined for four hits, three runs and five RBIs in their final game.
"Those big innings are when you have to fight through it, just stay confident in your skills and rely on each other," Deter said. "Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, when things aren't going your way, you forget that, and it got us today.
"But we're a young team, and this was was a really good learning experience. Hopefully we can come back stronger from it."
Class 2A Morrison Regional final
Alleman 10, Morrison 7
Star of the game: Anna Wetherell, Alleman, go-ahead 2-RBI 2B, 2 runs
Key performers: Lexi Ferrari, Alleman, 2-run single, 2 runs; Izzy Anderson, Alleman, 2-run single; Shannon Finneran, Morrison, 2 hits, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Chelsea Eads, Morrison, 2-run single
Up next: 2A Byron Sectional semifinal, Alleman vs. Winnebago, 7 p.m. Tuesday