AVOCA — Kailey Jones is nothing if not in control.
In 66 innings pitched entering Wednesday, the AHSTW sophomore had issued only three walks.
So when Missouri Valley’s Ashlyn Cook broke up her no-hitter with two outs in the sixth on a bunt single, and then Julia Janssen followed with an RBI double and Payton Hilts an RBI single to suddenly make it a 3-2 game, AHSTW coach G.G. Harris remained confident.
“She really doesn’t allow (adversity) to her affect her,’’ he said. “I knew she was going to do her job.’’
Jones regrouped and induced the final four batters of the game to ground out, and AHSTW hung on for a 3-2 Class 2-A regional quarterfinal victory over the Lady Reds.
It gets tougher for the Lady Vikes (12-10). They advance to Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal at Onawa against fourth-rated West Monona (29-5). The Spartans blanked IKM-Manning 10-0 on Wednesday, with junior standout Lexi Lander firing a perfect game.
But AHSTW has its shot, thanks to Jones’ pitching and some excellent defense. Freshman shortstop Madison Heiny made several outstanding plays, and third baseman Katie Anzalone, the team’s lone senior, juggled Carter Crispin’s line shot three or four times in the sixth before finally securing it with her bare hand immediately before Cook’s bunt single.
Jones (5-5) fielded her position well, striking out two and walking only one along the way.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ Harris said. “Her first-pitch strike is 62 to 65 percent. There’ll be days when she’ll be at 75, 80 percent first-pitch strikes.
“And it’s not like we’re saying, ‘Throw the ball down the middle.’ It’s usually a location. It could be offspeed. She can really put the ball wherever she wants it, and she’s got a variety of pitches.’’
Anzalone opened the scoring in the first by reaching on a three-base error and then beating the throw home on Paige Osweiler’s comebacker.
Anzalone made it 2-0 in the third. She reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, took third on Ally Meyers’ single and scored when the right fielder mishandled the ball and Harris sent her home.
Natalie Hagadon doubled, was sacrificed to third and scored on Meyers’ groundout to give AHSTW a 3-0 lead after five.
That set the stage for the Lady Reds’ rally, which ultimately fell short. Cook allowed just four hits for Missouri Valley.
“Ashlyn kept us in the game, but their girl did a great job in the circle tonight, just kind of kept us off-balance,’’ Missouri Valley coach Rick Barker said.
The Lady Reds graduate two seniors, five-year starter Crispin, one of the school’s top all-around athletes, and McKenna Clausen, the team’s full-time catcher the last two years.
“I have two great seniors,’’ Barker said. “They’ve played a lot of softball for us. Two wonderful kids and outstanding softball players. They’re going to be missed.’’
The Lady Reds had 31 girls out for softball, and started five juniors on Wednesday.
“I feel like we’re in a really good spot, and that’s because of those seniors,’’ Barker said. “Our kids wanted to play with those seniors.’’
AHSTW will be a heavy underdog on Friday.
“It’s going to be a great test,’’ Harris said. “We just want to give ourselves an opportunity.’’
Missouri Valley (14-16) 000 002 0—2 3 4
AHSTW (12-10) 101 010 x—3 4 1
W: Kailey Jones (5-5). L: Ashlyn Cook (7-8). 2B: MV, Julia Janssen; A, Baylee Meyers, Natalie Hagadon.