State Softball: Ballard Bombs Three to Win 3A Title Over Solon
By Jeff Linder, Reporter
FORT DODGE -- The nickname fits.
Ninth-ranked Ballard put the "bomb" in Bombers on Friday, hitting three home runs -- including a three-run, go-ahead blast by Kenzie Ihle in the bottom of the sixth inning -- and fought past No. 1 Solon, 5-4, to win the Class 3A state softball championship at the Rogers Sports Complex.
"My blood was rushing really fast," said Ihle, a sophomore who hit two long balls and earned the pitching win. "I knew if (Solon pitcher Arran Weeces) got ahead, she'd start throwing junk, so I had to get on the first pitch."
Ballard (35-9) won all three of its games this week in dramatic fashion, by a run apiece.
The title is the Bombers' first in softball.
Solon (37-7) rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring three unearned runs in the top of the sixth for a 4-2 lead.
Weeces singled home Casey Musgrave to get the Spartans even at 2-2, then Rylee Smith's ground ball stayed fair just inside third base for a double that plated Emma Rickels and Weeces and gave Solon its first lead of the game.
Smith was 3-for-3.
"It was great, but we knew we had to come out and play hard still," Smith said.
Ballard answered immediately.
With two outs and one on, Kayla Bruns singled to put runners at first and third. Even though Ihle already had homered (a second-inning shot to center field) and Weeces had struck out the following batter (Brooke Mallon) twice, the Spartans went after Ihle.
"It crossed my mind (to walk Ihle), but (Weeces) had been hitting her spots pretty well," said Solon coach Ben Sorden.
Ihle crushed the first pitch over the left-field fence to put Ballard ahead for good.
"We didn't talk about (walking her)," Weeces said. "The plan was to go after her, and she hit it. They're a good hitting team. You have to give them credit."
Solon wasn't done quite yet.
Taylor Nearad singled with out, then Mel Breza walked with two away. Musgrave hit a slow roller that second baseman Grace Hall misplayed, and beat out the throw to first.
Nearad didn't break stride and raced for the plate, but first baseman Katie Ahrenholtz made the throw and Mallon put on the tag at the plate.
And a week full of Ballard drama was complete.
The Bombers beat Mid-Prairie 5-4 in the quarterfinals after trailing 3-0 through five innings. They edged Bondurant-Farrar, 1-0 in the semifinals, scoring in the seventh inning.
"Like we say, never back down, never lose faith," said Ihle, the all-tournament captain.
Homers by Ihle and Hall staked Ballard to a 2-0 advantage. The Spartans got within 2-1 when Emily Bransky singled home Smith in the fifth.
A two-out error by Hall opened the door for Solon's sixth-inning rally. She appeared to make another on a grounder hit by Bransky that -- at first glance -- seemed to put Solon up 5-2, but Bransky was ruled out for leaving the batter's box when she made contact with the ball, and it remained 4-2.
Bransky, Smith and Weeces were all-tournament selections. Weeces (20-3) struck out 11, but when the Bombers did hit it, they hit it hard.
What's On KCRG