With Anna Chapman in the circle, Lily Roth and the rest of the Dubuque Wahlert batters are confident in making a comeback.
With hitters like Roth, Chapman beams with confidence in her pitches even after giving up a lead.
Outside of three pitches, Chapman was on point. But those pitches put the Golden Eagles in a three-run hole against Clinton on Thursday in an Iowa Class 4A regional quarterfinal at Wahlert High School.
“Clinton came to play,” Wahlert coach Ashley Cullen said. “They have a good team and they battled hard. Our girls just had confidence in each other and they came through with hits when they needed with a little small ball and scored some runs.”
Wahlert responded with a five-run fifth inning, sparked by a two-run single from Paige Hummel that tied it and Lily Roth’s infield RBI single to take the lead for good as the Eagles survived the River Queens, 8-3.
Wahlert (22-19) advanced to Saturday’s regional semifinal at No. 13-ranked DeWitt Central (27-8) at 7:30 p.m.
“I think that we battled back because we stayed positive,” said Chapman, who earned the win behind a complete game five-hitter with 11 strikeouts and two walks. “The energy got a lot higher. After we got down we went in the dugout, we pumped each other up and started to hit the ball. That’s all it took was a little bit of momentum and we carried that through the rest of the game.”
Wahlert stranded three baserunners in the first three innings before Clinton (8-27) struck in the fourth. Three straight pitches saw Chapman give up big hits, as Casy Mandrell doubled before Madison Meggenberg brought her home with a double and then Lauren Brennan hit a two-run homer to centerfield to give the River Queens a sudden 3-0 advantage.
“I think my mechanics ... there were just three pitches right in a row that did not work,” Chapman said. “My mechanics were a little off on those three and I let the ball slip. Props to them for hitting it hard and far. They did what they should have on those.”
The Eagles didn’t have an answer in the bottom half of the inning, but regrouped for a breakout fifth. With one out, Kat Nedder drilled a double to start the rally. Abigail Wallace moved her to third with an infield single before stealing second, then Ellie Timmerman’s bunt single loaded the bases.
“We just had to believe in ourselves,” said Lily Roth, who finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. “We’ve come back from more than three runs before. We knew we could do it. We had runners on before and couldn’t get them home. Getting those key hits got them across finally.”
On a full count, Natalie Kelzer’s RBI single got the Eagles on the scoreboard. Hummel followed with a two-run single to tie it up, then Lily Roth’s infield single gave Wahlert the lead. Maria Roth’s bloop RBI single pushed the advantage to 5-3.
Chapman kept the River Queens at bay from there, allowing only two singles and a walk the rest of the way. However, those all came in the sixth inning and set up Clinton with the bases loaded with one out. However, the sophomore got out of the jam by forcing Natalie Dornbush to pop out and sat down Annelise Dickinson swinging.
“A lot of confidence in her and everyone gets behind her,” Lily Roth said of Chapman. “She knows we’re there to back her up, too, and make the plays. She’s there doing her job and we’re doing our job.”
In the bottom half of the sixth, Lily Roth provided the insurance to seal the deal. After Wahlert loaded the bases, the junior took advantage with a bases-clearing double to move the Eagles to the next round.
“That was so big,” Chapman said. “I was so happy and when she got in the dugout I just was running at her with high fives and hugs. Hits like those get the team really pumped up because in that instance we know we’re in it and our season is still alive.”
Wahlert will be faced with a tougher test in the next round in DeWitt Central, winners of nine of its last 10 games and featuring a big-hitting lineup that has connected on 25 home runs this season.
“They’re going to be an aggressive team,” Cullen said. “They’re going to hit the ball and play good defense with good pitching. It’s going to be a battle but I think we’ll be prepared.”