FORT DODGE — The third-ranked (Class 4A) Fairfield softball team nearly staged the biggest comeback of the night at the state softball tournament on Monday, but a tough Dallas Center-Grimes team survived the Trojans 7-5 to end the 2020 FHS softball season.
Fairfield trailed 6-2 with just three at-bats to go after the top of the fifth inning, but the Trojans came roaring back with a purpose before falling two runs short.
It was Fairfield who struck first, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Both RBIs came from the last two batters of Fairfield’s order, when Delaney Breen knocked in a run on an RBI single to left, and Destiny Gridley made it 2-0 on a sacrifice fly.
The next six runs, however, went to the Fillies. Dallas Center-Grimes put up a four-spot in the top of the third inning, including a bases-clearing double by senior catcher Molly Cooney. That put the Fillies up 4-2.
Two innings later, in the fifth, DC-G put up two more. Trojan starting pitcher Allison Rebling retired the first two DC-G batters, but the Fillies rallied for three-straight base runners to load the bases, and tacked on two more runs, putting the Trojans in a four-run deficit, their first of the 2020 season.
In the bottom of the fifth, Fairfield punched back. Gridley, a senior, singled to lead the inning off, and then senior teammates Shay Drish and Rebling worked back-to-back walks to load the bases. Coty Engle brought one home on another walk, and Hannah Simpson delivered a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield to cut the lead to 6-5.
“It Showed that we’re a team that is going to fight back no matter what,” Simpson said. “If we’re down 10-0, we can come back and get those runs.”
Trailing by just one now with runners on second and third, the Trojans had a shot to tie it up or brab the lead, but the Fillies wiggled out of the jam, still clinging to a 6-5 advantage.
DC-G’s Kamryn O’Brien knocked a run in the top of the sixth to give the Fillies a 7-5 lead, but a big defensive play by the Trojans helped Fairfield keep it that way in the seventh.
After the Fillies led the inning off with a base-runner, Trojan third-baseman Jenna Norris made a leaping catch on a ball and flung it over to first to turn an incredible double play. That helped Rebling finish off her seventh frame, and built a little momentum for the Trojans in the seventh.
It was Simpson who led off Fairfield’s final at-bat, and she did so with a bang. She crushed a double to left-center field, narrowly beating the throw to second to ignite the Trojan crowd.
“I just wanted to do everything to get my team going. I was struggling in the first two pitches, but I ripped it. Al (Asst. Coach Al Rebling) said “get on your horse,” and I did get on my horse but I was scared I was going to be out!”
Peyton McCabe worked a walk to put the Trojans in business with two on and nobody out, but Fairfield pitcher Riley Hall, who was relieved by Lani Gannon and had to come back into the game, forced two-straight fielder’s choices and a short pop-out to end the game.
“Our girls did a great job coming back,” said head coach Bob Bradfield. “We had runners on base in the inning when it was 6-5, and we had runners on base the next inning, and we had runners on base in the seventh. All it would have taken is one hit and we could have been tied again, but every team that loses could say that.”
Simpson led the offense, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Gridley finished the night 1-for-1 with an RBI and a run scored. Breen went 1-for-4 with an RBI. McCabe was 1-for-2 with a run. Rebling went 1-for-3 with a run. Engle finished 0-for-2 with an RBI. Drish and Danielle Breen each had a hit.
It was the end of the road for a trio of Trojan seniors; Rebling, Drish and Gridley. Fairfield will bring the rest of a stacked team back next year, however, and will be one of the favorites again in Southeast Iowa.
“We have an outstanding group,” said Simpson. “I told the ladies, ‘keep your head up because we’re coming back.’”