How the Roland-Story softball team put it all together to crush Nevada in its 3A regional opener
Kayley Birkland knew it was gone as soon as she saw where the ball was headed during the fourth inning of Roland-Story's 10-0 rout of Nevada in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals Wednesday at Story City.
Birkland got a hold of a Makayla Spaid pitch and sent it over the fence in left-center field in the bottom of the fourth inning. The solo shot, Birkland's third of the season, ignited a five-run inning that broke open a tight 1-0 game.
"I've hit every single home run over the same spot right out there on the fence," Birkland said. "I'm not aiming. It just happens when you least expect it."
It was Birkland's second home run off of Spaid this season. She was thrilled to jumpstart her team offensively as the Norse advanced to Saturday's regional semifinals against Ballard with a 20-9 record.
"I'm a junior now so I can lead the younger girls," Birkland said. "That was kind of cool."
Ally Ringsby hit her second home run of the season in the fifth inning to wrap up the game. The Norse shortstop also smacked one over the fence in left field for a three-run shot that ended the game on account of the 10-run mercy rule.
"My first at-bats weren't great," Ringsby said. "I was just determined to get solid contact. I had to resort to my shorter swing and sometimes you hit it just right and it goes over. It felt amazing. That will give me a big confidence boost for our next game."
Madison Geise was the winning pitcher for Roland-Story. Geise fired a four-hit shutout with six strikeouts and one walk.
"I've been pitching against all of those Nevada girls since I started pitching, so they know me and I know them," Geise said. "Since we know each other it's either a shutout or they hit a lot off of me. I was glad to get a good pitching game against them. I think the whole team came together and played great defense. That really helped with that shutout."
Reagan Faber was 3-for-4 with a double and three runs in the win for Roland-Story. Kamryn Lande went 2-for-3 with a run, Geise singled and drove in two runs and Alynn Solberg singled and scored for the Norse.
The victory was the ninth in the last 12 games for Roland-Story. The Norse feel they are clicking at the right time heading into Saturday's regional semifinal matchup with Ballard, a 10-0 winner over Des Moines Christian in its regional quarterfinal game Wednesday.
Ballard is 14-20, but the Bombers have faced the toughest schedule in 3A.
Roland-Story won at Ballard by a 9-7 score back on June 14 in Huxley. Geise hit a grand slam against the Bombers to key the Norse victory.
"I think having that win under our belt is nice, but this is not guaranteed," Geise said. "It's going to be a tough game, but we've been doing really well. We all have faith in each other."
Nevada finished its season with a 7-19 record. The Cubs hung tough for 3 1/2 innings, but they left two runners stranded in both the third and fourth frames and the inability to capitalize in those situations came back to haunt them.
"We were just a couple hits away from getting a few runs of our own and that would've changed the whole complexion of the game," Nevada head coach Corey Barloon said. "I was really proud of the girls. The ball didn't always bounce our way, but the girls always showed up ready to compete. I can't ask for anything more than that."
Kylie Taylor, Lani Khounsourath, Peyton Hanson and Avery Hinson each singled once and Taylor was also hit by a pitch. Spaid drew a walk and Maria Rivera was hit by a pitch for Nevada.