NORWALK — Unheralded Perry (12-22) gave ninth-rated Norwalk (36-4) a serious scare before bowing out of the postseason in a 2-1 loss Saturday in their Class 4A Region 7 Semifinal.
Paige Lammers hit a seeing-eye bouncing through the middle of a drawn-in infield to plate pinch runner Samie Brooner with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to win the game for Norwalk, who found the sledding much steeper against the Jayettes than in their 9-1 win at the PAC May 24.
In the first meeting the teams were tied at 1-all after five innings before Norwalk scored three times in the sixth inning and five more times in the seventh to pull away for the win. Perry pitcher Emma Olejniczak, an eighth grader, was making just her second varsity start and yielded the nine runs (seven earned) on 13 hits and two walks while striking out six.
It was a different Olejniczak the Warriors encountered Saturday, as the rookie held the hosts to just three hits while walking five and striking out five.
Perry spent the season battling in the Raccoon River Conference, which, after Tuesday’s results, will send four teams to the state tournament: DC-G, Carlisle and Winterset in Class 4A and Bondurant-Farrar in 3A. By contrast, Norwalk competed in the Little Hawkeye, a league featuring only one other team, Oskaloosa (23-15) with a winning record.
The Jayettes came out strong in the top of the first, with Lindsey Kunch hitting a single and Katelyn Whelchel reaching on an infield error. Frankie Eklund followed with a single to left, with senior Abbey Montgomery throwing Kunch out at the plate by 10 feet. Katie England walked to load the bases, but Norwalk starter Taylor Goode forced a ground out to escape unscathed.
Mel Stevens hit a two-out single and Sierra Nelson reached on a catcher’s interference call, but Olejniczak notched a strikeout to keep the game scoreless after one frame.
Kylie Brandt led off the second for the Jayettes with a double to right field, but Perry could not get the run home and then went down in order in the third, with Norwalk set down in order in both the second and third frames.
England started the fourth with a double and moved to third on an Alexa Gilmore sacrifice. Brandt followed with a clean single to drive in England for a 1-0 Jayette lead.
Stevens led off the Norwalk fourth by tying the game with a long home run to left one of the few hard-hit balls by the Warriors in the contest. Nelson drew a walk, but after a sacrifice a strikeout and a fine defensive play by Olejniczak on a come-backer to the ring ended the inning.
Perry tried to make noise in the sixth when Eklund drew a one-out walk and England singled, but a fly out and pop out ended the rally. Two-out singles from Kunch and Whelchel in the seventh put Perry in position to score, but another pop out silenced the threat.
Norwalk had left a runner on second in the fifth and received consecutive two-out walks in the sixth, but a fly out preserved the tie score for Perry.
Montgomery walked to start the bottom of the seventh and moved to second when Devin Brown walked one out later. Brooner was brought in to pinch run, with a passed ball sending the runners to second and third and forcing Perry to pull the infield in.
Lammers followed with a bouncing ball that eluded pitcher Olejniczak and shortstop Whelchel and rolled cleanly into the grass, allowing Brooner to score.
Goode allowed one run on eight hits and two walks while striking out one in collecting the victory.
Norwalk fell to No. 8 Indianola, 4-0, in the Region 7 Final Tuesday.
The loss ends the prep careers of three seniors for Perry in outfielders Eklund, outfielder/pitcher Gilmore and third baseman England, all of whom were starters for multiple seasons. They helped Perry post 12 wins in their final campaign, the most by a Jayette squad since the 2006 team finished 13-19.