Hanging on for dear life: Roland-Story withstands furious IFA rally to advance to 3A regional finals

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Roland-Story second baseman Kayley Birkland celebrates a strikeout by pitcher Madison Geise during the sixth inning of the Class 3A regional semifinal softball game between the Norse and Iowa Falls-Alden Friday at Roland. Roland-Story held off a late Cadet comeback attempt to advance to the regional finals with a 6-4 victory.

Roland-Story was living in the fast lane against Iowa Falls-Alden during the Class 3A regional softball semifinals Friday at the Hennessy Diamonds in Roland.

The 10th-ranked Norse looked in complete command through six innings after building a 6-0 lead. But in the blink of an eye Iowa Falls-Alden erupted for four runs and had the winning run at the plate with two outs in the top of the seventh.

Starting Norse pitcher Madison Geise had been pulled with one out in the seventh after giving up four hits to the first five Cadet batters. Senior Dana Vinson came in and got the second out of the inning, but then issued a walk and gave a two-run double IFA's Elise Osman.

Osman's hit pulled the Cadets within two and put runners on second and third. Vinson ran a 1-1 count on IFA batter Hailey Bridgewater, but Norse coach Amber Doyle felt it was time to put Geise back on the hill to try and close out the game.

"We've played a lot of good teams this year, so it's not like we haven't faced pressure before," Geise said. "They saw Dana, she kind of got them off balance and got another out then they kind of got on Dana. It was good for me to come back in because that batter had already seen two balls off Dana and it's just a different thing to see someone else right in your same at-bat. As a pitcher I felt like any other moment. The stakes were higher, but I knew my defense had me."

Geise didn't need any help from her defense. She fired two strikes to record her 10th strikeout and retire Bridgewater for the final out in a 6-4 Roland-Story victory.

Madison Geise had 10 strikeouts in Roland-Story's 6-4 victory over Iowa Falls-Alden in the 3A regional softball semifinals Friday at Roland.

"They're used to being in close games and staying confident and comfortable," Roland-Story head coach Amber Doyle said. "That's why we play a tough schedule — so when you get to these there's some comfort in uncomfortable situations. We did a nice job of staying confident and staying together."

Hayden Walters drove in the eventual winning runs for Roland-Story with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning. 

Walters laced the ball to center field with runners on first and second and two outs. At the time it looked like Walters was just padding a decisive lead, but thanks to the big Cadet rally her hit turned out to be the difference maker.

"I am so glad I got that with two outs," Walters said. "It was just bat to the ball. I'm happy with everything."

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Small ball played a big role in the first four runs for Roland-Story. The Norse pushed all four runs across in the bottom of the third inning after executing three bunts to perfection.

"It's a way to make the defense think more and keep them on their toes," Roland-Story center fielder Reagan Faber said. "It made them think whether to go (home) or get the sure out. It helped us out."

Lydia Oetker started the Norse rally in the third with a one-out walk. Ally Ringsby then singled after initially being called out on a flyball when the third-base umpire called an illegal pitch on Osman to give Ringsby new life.

Then Faber got the bunt game going with a bunt single to score courtesy runner Gabriella Wakefield and  put runners on second and third. Geise followed with an RBI bunt single and a Cadet error allowed Faber to race home with Roland-Story's third run of the inning.

Macy Friest, the Norse cleanup batter, then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to drive in the final run of the inning.

Roland-Story's Alynn Solberg connects with the ball during an at-bat against Iowa Falls-Alden in the 3A regional semifinals Friday at Roland. The Norse won, 6-4.

The victory put Roland-Story at 24-8 heading into Monday's 3A Region 4 final against either third-ranked Williamsburg or a Saydel team that edged the Norse for the Heart of Iowa Conference title. The semifinal game between Williamsburg and Saydel was pushed back to Saturday due to inclement weather.

"Either way we're going to have to face a strong pitcher," Doyle said. "That's the game to go to state. If Saydel wins we get to host at home and I don't mind doing that. If we have to go on the road we also had to go to Williamsburg last year for round two, so we're familiar with that drive and facility and they've got a lot of the same team back."