NORWALK — The Oskaloosa softball team played its second straight Little Hawkeye Conference foe in the Class 4A regional semifinal Saturday night.
The 14th-ranked Indians traveled to Norwalk to meet the No. 13 Warriors for the right to play in the regional final Tuesday night.
Oskaloosa (21-14) struck for a run in the first inning and added two more in the third to upend Norwalk 4-1.
The Indians now will go to Adel to play No. 2 ADM (28-6) for the right to play in the state tournament in Fort Dodge. The Tigers edged Newton 3-2.
Oskaloosa coach Jay Harms said the team was clutch when it needed to be as all four runs came on two out hits.
"That was clutch and you have to give kids credit going up there battling because the first two innings she (Norwalk pitcher Haley Downe) had us," he said. "The first two innings four of the six outs were strikeouts and was a little worried about that. When we beat them here, we only struck out four times and to strike out four times the first two innings, we were a little concerned about that. Our kids made some adjustments at the plate and got better swings at her. You have to come up with clutch hits and we've talked about that. Pitchers have to throw strikes and got to come through with key hits."
Oskaloosa, which lost twice in three games against Norwalk, took the early 1-0 lead in the opening inning as Ashley Kindley walked and Ava Vande Wall had an infield single as Kindley went to third on the hit. With two outs, Abby Braudmeier then singled to second to score Kindley for the early lead.
Norwalk had a chance to take the lead in the second aLexie Heir reached on an error with one out. Camryn Gilchrist lined out to Kindley at third and Downe flied out to Maleah Walker in center to end the inning.
The Indians tallied two more runs — both coming with two outs, in the third.
Vande Wall and Braudmeier each had two-out singles then Maddie Haines drilled two two-run double to left to score Vande Wall and Braudmeier for a 3-0 cushion.
"Haines' two-out hit was huge," Harms said. "She just crushed it. That was good to see from Maddie and can't say enough of our kids. They battled and all night long Hayle (Hacker) battled. So happy for her coming off that tough loss to Fairfield last year when we were up 4-0 and lost 6-4. To be able to get that lead and pitch through some tough situations and got some key outs when we needed them."
But the Warriors reached Hacker for a run in the bottom of the third off four hits.
Hacker walked Jayden Lammers and Briley Sodergren to lead off the inning. A sacrifice by Emily Ellis advance the runners a base and Katie Heaverlo singled home Lammers to cut the deficit to two runs.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh when Oskaloosa got a crucial insurance run that put the game away.
Meghan Moorman doubled to left with one out in the inning and Vande Wall collected her fourth hit of the contest as she drove in courtesy runner Macie Krier with a two-out single to left.
Norwalk had a runner on first as Lammers singled to begin the inning, but Hacker got a pair of fly outs and Heaverlo to pop out to Taylor Wills at second to end the game.
One of the outs came on a nice running catch off the bat of Ellis by Oskaloosa right fielder Sophia Dykstra. Earlier in the game, center fielder Maleah Walker snagged a ball hit by Downe to end the second inning.
"She did the same thing at Fella, making a great catch," said Harms of Dykstra's catch. "She had no outfield experience and has made some tremendous plays out there. Maleah's catch also saved some runs. She's an eighth-grader who was thrown in the lineup late and has done a tremendous job for us. A great team win but the kids tonight and I'm so proud of them."
Vande Wall had four of the Indians' nine hits, including a double, scored a run and drove in another while Braundmeier and Haines had two hits apiece. One of Haines' hits was a double and knocked in two runs while Braundmeier scored a run and drove in another. Moorman had the other hit for Oskaloosa, a double, as Krier and Kindley both scored a run.
Hacker improves to 19-8 on the season as she scattered six hits in seven innings of work. She walked two and struck out seven.