Ottumwa -- For the 20th time since softball began on the Ottumwa campus, the Indian Hills Warriors will be ending their season at the NJCAA national tournament. The Warriors sewed up the program's latest tourney trip with back-to-back victories in the District J tournament at R.L. Hellyer Field on Friday, beating No. 9-ranked Crowder College, 4-1 and 8-4.
The wins mean IHCC will ride a 23-game win streak into the tourney in St. George, Utah later this month. And, as they have done so often during the long winning streak, the Warriors used the home run ball to sail to their latest victories. They slammed two homers in the decisive first inning of game one, then got three blasts from Brooke Snider and another from Chloe Olson to post a come-from-behind decision in the second contest. They have slugged 93 homers for the season, second in school history. And Snider's three bombs in the nightcap allowed her to overtake teammate Macey Harrington for the most in a single season at Indian Hills.
The Warriors definitely set the tone for the day with a pair of two-run shots in the bottom of the first in the opener. After Snider tripled, Olson hit a long home run to make it a quick 2-0 game. After a walk to Jaylie Reints, Alexis Westercamp hit one over the fence for an early 4-0 advantage. That was more than enough offense for freshman pitcher Alexis Groet, who permitted only an unearned run and struck out nine in her latest dominating pitching effort. IHCC didn't get another hit after the first inning against Crowder's Maddy Prough, who lost for the first time this spring. A diving catch in left field by Olson provided a fitting end to the first game.
Snider's three homers and five RBIs in the nightcap were vital in the Warriors' 40th win of the season. Crowder tallied a run in the 1st and two more in the next inning to grab a 3-1 lead. Snider homered in the 3rd to put IHCC on top 4-3 and went deep again in the 5th. Her final drive of the day, her 25th of the spring, was part of a three-run 7th inning that capped the scoring. There were RBI-doubles by Reints and Westercamp in the 7th too. Olson had her second home run of the day earlier, her 16th of the year. She went 3-for-3 and scored twice, Reints was 2-for-4 and Brittni Lloyd scored twice. The Warriors used three pitchers: Nina Hendriks started and was charged with all four Crowder runs in her 2 2/3 innings of work. Jakala Hall followed with 2 2/3 innings and Groet came out of the IHCC bullpen to nail down the victory, coasting through the final five outs for a save.
IHCC coach Lindsay Diehl said winning the district championship was another highlight of her first season as head coach. She was quick to add the latest highlight was "up to this point." "Seeing the girls have so much confidence going into the day and believing in themselves is one of the best rewards of coaching," Diehl said. "The growth this group has had has been remarkable. Knowing the tradition of IHCC softball, this team is playing like they want to defend the name on our jerseys. I'm lucky to be able to get to work with them and can't wait to head to Utah and see what we can do against the top teams in the country."
The Warriors will take a 40-16 record and that lengthy winning streak to St. George, Utah for the national tourney. Diehl played in two NJCAA tournaments for Indian Hills, in 2002 and 2003. The four-day event begins May 22.