SOLON — It’s one thing to possess a relentless offense that leads Class 4A in nearly every significant offensive category. But add a dynamic hurler in the pitching circle and the Solon Spartans have all the necessary components for a successful state tournament run.
Lefty Emily Ira struck out the first nine batters and was a strike away from a no-hitter as the third-ranked Spartans eliminated No. 12 North Scott, 9-1, last night in a Class 4A softball regional final.
“I was hitting my spots, (and) I was throwing the ball well,” Ira said. “Pretty much everything was working.”
A two-out, two-strike home run from Annie DeVries of North Scott (24-12) in the bottom of the seventh was all that stood between Ira and a no-hitter. Solon’s fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament begins at 3 p.m. Monday in Fort Dodge against Clear Creek Amana.
“Last year we went up there and were super confident and kind of laid an egg,” Solon Coach Jim White said of an opening loss a year ago. “The nice thing is it will have their attention.”
Ira (21-1) was her usual masterful self, keeping hitters guessing with a mix of speeds and locations so effective that seven of the junior’s 13 punchouts were on called third strikes.
“Sometimes we tell her to give us a ground ball or something,” third baseman Ali Herdliska said with a laugh. “She gave us a couple, but outs are outs and we can deal with that.”
Ira made sure she had a cushion to work with by hitting the second of Solon’s two first-inning RBI singles.
“We had to keep pushing because we knew they were good,” Ira said.
Herdliska extended the Solon lead to 3-0 with a two-out solo home run in the third inning, her team-high sixth this season. The junior finished with two hits, two RBIs and two runs.
Freshmen Jess Heick and Bryce Hinkel each added RBI singles for Solon (37-2).
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