The Oskaloosa Indian softball team has had a fantastic season and will be looking to qualify for the state softball tournament for the second time ever in Class 4A Region 5.
This bracket is intriguing from a lot of standpoints. In the first round, Clear Creek-Amana (18-21), who has a winning pedigree and has found ways to get back to Fort Dodge and the state tournament time and time again, will host Marion (12-21) in Oxford on Thursday, July 7th.
This matchup is a rematch from a doubleheader earlier in the season, where CCA got wins by scores of 2-1 and 4-1 in Oxford. That was over a month ago and a lot has changed. For the Clippers of CCA, they have had a roller coaster season, and are in a low valley at the moment. After starting the season 6-6 following the sweep of Marion, the Clippers lost 8 of their next 10 games. That was immediately followed by a 10-game winning streak, where they allowed more than two runs only once in that span. Since that streak ended on June 25th, CCA has lost 7 of their last 8 to finish the regular season.
Marion has never really got going this year, but played CCA close enough in their meetings earlier this season to feel like they have a good shot at pulling the upset on the road.
The winner of that game faces #4 Oskaloosa (25-7) in Osky. The Indians have been plagued with injuries as the season has worn on, with pitchers Alexis Groet and Kylee Silliman both missing time due to physical issues. Head Coach Jay Harms has worked Josie Bunnell and Anna Jones into the rotation, but their inexperience would be a challenge in a postseason setting.
Oskaloosa’s schedule was not easy as the season wound to a close, and that in addition to the injuries saw the Indians finish the regular slate with four straight losses after just three the first 28 games of the year.
If Osky were to even get one of their pitchers back for Saturday’s semifinal against either Marion or CCA, they would have to feel confident in their prospects.
That would send Osky to the Region 5 Final in Class 4A.
The first round matchup on that side is Maquoketa (13-23) hosting Washington (11-23). Neither of those teams seems to have championship pedigree, so #9 Mount Pleasant (27-9) should get a fairly easy matchup on their home field on Saturday in their semifinal.
That seems to set up a collision course for Oskaloosa and Mount Pleasant to square off in the regional final on Tuesday, July 12th. That game would be on the home field of the higher seed, and with the final rankings not released yet, there’s no guarantee that the game would be played in Oskaloosa. As mentioned, Osky lost their last four, while Mt. Pleasant won 6 of their last 7, so there is a chance the Panthers could hop the Indians in the final rankings.
Regardless of where the game is played, this would be a case of how Osky does against junior Bailey Johnson. Johnson is 16-2 in the pitching circle with a team best 2.45 ERA, and opponents hitting just .194 against her. She has struck out 97 in 120 innings with 53 walks. The Panther #2 pitcher is junior Cali Liechty, who is 9-6 on the season, but with a similar ERA at 2.68, and a similar opponents’ batting average against at .199. The strikeouts are where Liechty has excelled, with 100 in 83.2 innings with just 46 walks. That gives Head Coach Troy Mears a second option in the circle if he needs to get strikeouts or if Johnson struggles.
Johnson is also one of the premier hitters in the stated, as she finished the year hitting right at .500, with a .614 on-base percentage. Her power numbers are unbelievable, with 15 home runs and 64 RBI. Those are both among the state leaders.
Oskaloosa’s pitcher, whoever that may be, will need to be careful with the rest of this lineup, because when they reach base, they wreak havoc, stealing 98 bases on 109 attempts in the regular year.
Osky will have to work for the victory, but if they are even close to full strength, they will be a very tough out in the tournament. While Mount Pleasant may be a challenging foe on paper, Osky’s record against perhaps the best conference in the state in the Little Hawkeye could give them that competitive advantage that they need.
You can hear all of the Oskaloosa softball broadcasts on 99.5 FM/740 AM KMZN, the KMZN mobile app, and radiokmzn.com. The semifinal game is Saturday, July 9th, at 7 PM, with the pregame starting at 6:45.