Dramatic Turnaround Continues As Kee Advances to Semifinals

By Sam Louwagie, The Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa -- Ellie Heiderscheit has seen plenty of losing. In her first two years on the Kee softball team, the Hawks won five games total.

So when the senior blasted a three-RBI triple on Tuesday to knock off second-ranked Lynnville-Sully and send Kee to the state semifinals, she knew how significant the moment was.

“It’s been a long, hard road,” she said. “It took a lot of work. You look back and you think, ‘Winning’s a lot more fun than I remembered.’”

Kee won’t forget this one.

Eighth-grader Kendra Cooper has helped lift the program with a .493 batting average and 47 RBIs this season. The Hawks improved to 15-14 last season, and then finished first in the Upper Iowa conference with a 32-9 record this season. Heiderscheit credited pitchers Kendra Cooper and freshman Courtney Cooper with helping turn around the program.

“They’ve worked their butts of since they were six years old,” she said.

Kendra Cooper pitched a shutout and allowed five hits on Tuesday.

The teams were locked in a scoreless tie in the fifth inning when Heiderscheit came up to bat with two runners on base. The senior drilled a pitch down the right-field line to the fence, scoring two runs. A wild throw from the catcher to third base allowed Heiderscheit to score a third run, and gave Kee a lead it wouldn’t let go.

“I’d been waiting for one [big hit], and it just happened to hit the right spot,” she said. “I was exhausted by the time I got to home, but it was completely worth it.

“It felt like a home run, but I’ll take a triple.”

Kaylee Darling drove in an insurance run in the sixth inning. When the Hawks turned a double play to end the game, they celebrated like a team that had been through some rough times: mobbed by parents and fans outside the dugout, hugs and smiles all around.

“I don’t think I can even put it into words,” said coach Elizabeth Hill, who began her coaching career as the team hit its worst struggles. “These girls deserve it. Our motto is ‘We Believe,’ and we believed in each other.”

“To have a year like this, and to end my senior year like this,” Heiderscheit said, “it feels like a championship already.”

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