By Joe Geren
Burlington High School’s 12th-ranked softball team fell one win short of returning to the state tournament.
Norwalk, who was ranked fourth, blanked the Grayhounds, 5-0, Tuesday night in the championship game of the Class 4A, Region 6 tournament at Norwalk. The Warriors (31-9) advance to the state tournament July 17-21 at Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
The young Burlington team ends its season at 20-9. On the Burlington roster, there are no seniors, four juniors, two sophomores, four freshmen, and six eighth-graders.
The Grayhounds reached the championship game by edging Knoxville, 3-2, on Saturday night at Wagner Field in the semifinal round.
“I expect (Norwalk) to be wanting to put it to us because we beat them,” BHS head coach Larry Heath said Saturday night after the semifinal victory. The Grayhounds beat Norwalk on June 10 in the Xavier tournament at Cedar Rapids, 2-0.
“We made some good defensive plays (in the first game against Norwalk) and beat them 2-0,” Heath said. “Their pitching is very good. They’re a very good team and play some tough competition and they more than likely will be laying for us since they lost to us.”
BHS also faced Norwalk in the consolation play of last summer’s state tournament, falling to the Warriors, 5-0.
Last Saturday night, the Grayhounds held a 3-0 lead over Knoxville entering the seventh inning, then committed three errors and allowed two unearned runs. Burlington second baseman Hannah Heuvelmann then made a diving grab of Emma Duncan’s ground ball and Heuvelmann flipped the softball to shortstop Kierah Wiseman for the game’s final out, preserving the victory.
“We’ve been trying to get Hannah to just lay out on some of those balls that we think she can get to,” Heath said. “Obviously, she got there. It was a great play to win the game for us.”
Saydee Plummer (12-4) was the winning pitcher, giving up no earned runs on five hits and one walk in seven innings. She struck out 10 batters.
“Saydee pitched a great game,” Heath said. “She couldn’t close it out in the seventh inning. It should have been two outs and nobody on, but we had three errors in the last inning. We gave them some opportunities, and they almost took advantage of it. We managed to get through it. Saydee pitched a great game and had a big hit with two RBIs. That was the difference in the game.”
In the fifth inning, Wiseman reached on an error, and slugger Kylee Hill was intentionally walked. Plummer ripped a two-out single to left center to score both runners and give BHS a 3-0 lead.
In the second inning, Ava Fawcett doubled to left and scored on Maddy Taeger’s single to right to give Burlington a 1-0 edge.
Heuvelmann and Hill also hit singles.
Knoxville ended its season at 15-14.
Joining Norwalk in the 4A state tournament will be Fort Dodge, ADM, Winterset, Carlisle, North Polk, North Scott, and Western Dubuque.