You can pretty much mark it down on your scorecard as soon as she gets on base: Sara Horsfield is going to score a run.
Western Dubuque is hoping its leadoff hitter will get plenty more chances to spark the Bobcats this week.
Horsfield, who has scored more runs than any other softball player in the state this season, leads Western Dubuque into the Iowa state tournament for the first time in 13 years. The second-ranked and No. 2-seeded Bobcats play 15th-ranked and seventh-seeded North Polk at 3 p.m. today in an Iowa Class 4A state quarterfinal at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
“When she gets on base, we’re confident because we can hit from top to bottom, so we’re going to hit her in some time,” said Western Dubuque pitcher Sydney Kennedy. “She’s a key part in getting that first run to get us lifted off and going.”
Horsfield enters the week hitting a robust .554, the sixth-best average among players with at least 100 at-bats. The speedy leadoff hitter has scored 73 runs — five more than the next closest player — and is second with 77 hits. She’s also worked 15 walks and twice been hit by a pitch. She has struck out just eight times in 139 at-bats.
A left-handed slap hitter, Horsfield has been thrown out just twice on 29 stolen base attempts and is able to bunt for a hit seemingly at will.
“I’ve been slap-hitting since I was really, really young, so I just go in that box really confident,” Horsfield said. “Even with an 0-2 count, I know I’m going to hit it and get on base.”
Kennedy and the hitters behind her have been the primary beneficiaries. Kennedy is tied for seventh in the state with 59 RBIs out of the No. 2 hole in the lineup. Abigail Kluesner has driven in 42 runs, Meg Besler has 41 RBIs and Maddie Harris 38.
“She is almost always our first run in,” Kennedy said. “We would joke in the first half of the season, I would hit her in almost every time. She was like, ‘you have all my RBIs.’”
Western Dubuque is making just the second appearance in program history after making its debut in 2008. The winner of today’s game will play either No. 3-seeded ADM (25-10) or No. 6 Clear Creek-Amana (29-9) at 5:30 p.m. in Wednesday’s semifinals. The loser will play a consolation game on Wednesday. The championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday.
Horsfield, Kennedy, Besler, Kluesner and Hallie Wilgenbusch are the only seniors on the roster. They know that no matter how this week goes, at some point they will be putting their jerseys on for the final time.
“It’s great for them. It means a lot,” Bobcats coach Rex Massey said. “In the state of Iowa, sports are so huge and the girls sports are just getting bigger and bigger. Western Dubuque is having so much great success in the girls sports, so it’s great for them just to get to play another game or two (or three). That’s the best thing. Five seniors have graduated, so for them this is the last hurrah.”