It’s not how a team starts a season, it’s how a team finishes that is important.
Central Lee lost its first nine softball games and 11 of its first 12, but it was won three straight and four of its last five, including a win over Burlington and Monday’s 7-3 road win over the Washington Demons.
“I just think our effort was not good,” Washington head coach Ben Obermann said. “It was not good to start with. We did not start playing to our capabilities until we were down 7-1.”
It was too little, too late for Washington in the nonconference game for the final contest of the regular season.
“We just did not have the energy and I don’t know why,” Obermann said. “We did not have the want to compete right-away, it seemed like.”
The Demons gave up three runs in the first inning and only managed to plate a run of their own in the first and two in the fifth and that was with the help of consecutive walks, a fielder’s choice and consecutive hit batters.
Washington had just four hits. Kellie Dallmeyer had a double and a single. Kinsey Duwa and Anna Venenga were each 1 for 2.
“That was a very disappointing thing to me,” Obermann said. “We are a much better offense than we showed.”
The Demons had won seven straight and eight of nine, but have lost three of their last four.
“The girls will take some time to worry about themselves and get better,” Obermann said. “All we have to do is hit one more hot streak.”
Central hit the ball hard all night with 12 hits in the first five innings.
“About seven games ago, I put Makenna Hall at the leadoff spot even though she had never hit there before,” Central Lee coach Darrell Krehbiel said. “It provided a spark and energy to the team. I couldn’t be any more proud of these kids because of the way we started the season and now the way we are ending the season. We are really hitting our stride.”
Hall, who is the Hawks career leader in doubles, triples and home runs, went 3 for 4 and pitched 4 2/3 innings.
“There wasn’t any secrets to the way we played, it was just Makenna Hall,” Krehbiel said.
Molly Sparks threw the first five innings for Washington and Cara Linnenkamp the last two.
“Give Central Lee some credit, they came ready to hit,” Obermann said. “They put some pressure on us. We were not sharp defensively.”
Washington loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings.
“More times than not, we are going to get some hits there,” Obermann said. “I really thought we should’ve got some people in, especially in the sixth inning. We had the bases loaded with one out.”
The Washington postseason starts Thursday in Class 4A with a home game against Iowa City Liberty (18-20). Central Lee starts the postseason Wednesday against No. 2 Louisa-Muscatine, the defending Class 2A state champions.
“You spot a team three runs in a seven-inning game and that is tough to come back from,” Obermann said. “Granted, our kids battled. We got down 7-1 and battled back to give ourselves a chance, but with the regional starting on Thursday, this is not the type of effort I want to see.”
It was kind of a bad news, good news situation for the Demons. The game exposed some things Washington needs to work on, but it’s a bad time of year to have to be working on things.
“Hopefully, this lights a fire under us a little bit,” Obermann said. “This was a very disappointing end to the regular season. Our girls have to know they lost to a team that, frankly, it’s not as good as us. That is the game of softball. If you don’t show up on a consistent basis, then anybody can beat anybody. That’s true for everybody, from the team with the best record in the state to the team with the worst record in the state.”
With regional play a couple days away, the Demons need to be ready, they need to be focused.
“I know what we are capable of doing,” Obermann said. “We will be able to bounce back. We have good leadership.”