Trojan softball advances to regional final

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Rae Speicher and Makenzie McGriff pose following the Trojans' regional win over Pella Christian

On a picture perfect night for softball, the intense intra-county rivalry between Pleasantville and Pella Christian was renewed with the next leg of the journey to Fort Doge on the line. The Marion County teams once again did not disappoint – but this evening belonged to the Trojans who gave the home crowd a thrilling 3-2 victory.

After retiring the Eagles’ side 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Josie Sowers drew a walk and stole second base. Amber McKinney smacked a single into the outfield to drive Sowers home before getting caught at second base to put the Trojans up 1-0.

Two batters later, Makenzie McGriff left no doubt in anyone’s mind as she pulverized a home run to deep center to give Pleasantville a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles were not shaken, and the first two batters were able to reach on Trojan errors. Both were driven home on a double to center to tie the game at two. With the damage done from defensive errors and a powerful Pella Christian offense, Trojan pitcher Abby DeJoode didn’t let it get to her.

The Trojan defense redeemed themselves in the top of the third, as leadoff batter Chloe Morgan made her way to third base. Pop outs stranded her there.

Leaving runners in scoring position was not merely a Pella Christian issue. Pleasantville’s next two offensive innings began with doubles, first by Bridgette McKinney in the bottom of the second and then by Amber McKinney in the bottom of the third. In total, the Trojans would strand five runners through the bottom of the fourth.

DeJoode and the defense faced their greatest challenge in the top of the fourth. The inning began with another error to put an Eagle on first. A single slipped past the shortstop to put two on base and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third. Sierra Pleima was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. A fielder’s choice saved a run before the final batter of the inning grounded out to DeJoode.

As time was running short, the Trojans came up against a new pitcher, Danielle Vande Voort, in the bottom of the fifth. Amber McKinney struck first with a looper that dropped among three Eagle defenders. A sacrifice bunt advanced her to second. Two batters later, Faith Vanderhart shot an RBI single into center to put the Trojans up 3-2.

Though the Trojans had the lead, everyone knows that the Pella Christian Eagles are too good of a team to ease any facet of one’s game when facing them.

Over the next two innings, DeJoode struck out two batters while the team behind her scooped balls put into play off the ground and in the air to secure the Trojans’ trip to the next round of the playoffs.

“I knew I had to pitch where they couldn’t hit it,” DeJoode said after the game. Her pitching actually became stronger as the game progressed. She attributes that to getting more comfortable in the circle and gaining a better understanding of the batters she is facing. After gaining the lead, she tried to strike all batters out, but she knew if she couldn’t, the defense would back her up. DeJoode pitched a complete game and registered six strikeouts.

“I thought Abby did a really good job,” Head Coach Jan Haugen said. He knew Pella Christian was a tough team, and they would only be stronger than the first time they played earlier in the season. The Trojans had some errors, but they were able to overcome them. He was pleased with the overall performance of his team.

McGriff’s home run was her third of the year. The third base player felt it right away when she hit the dinger. On behalf of the Pleasantville defense, she said they tensed up in the field at first, but as a team they brought each other up to come through and get the win.

Pleasantville must win one more to make it to the State Tournament at Fort Dodge. They will face Des Moines Christian Monday night in Urbandale. Des Moines Christian is coming off an 8-4 win over Colfax-Mingo Friday night.

Haugen said this time of the year, everyone knows opponents will be evenly matched. He added that you also know the talent you are facing and you go after it. The Trojans will practice the next three days to prepare for the final and the opportunity to punch their ticket to state.