Grace Chabal almost seemed slightly embarrassed and laughed when told that she threw nothing but strikes in the first two innings against Grinnell on Thursday.
It was a night to laugh and to celebrate for members of the Clear Creek Amana softball team, or make that a quick night.
Chabal and her cohorts jumped all over lowly Grinnell, cruising to a 13-1 victory in three innings in a Class 4A regional quarterfinal.
CCA improved to 23-15 and will face fourth-ranked Carlisle in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday in Carlisle. Grinnell ended the season at 2-28 and without a hit in its final game of the season.
“We knew we had to win this one to go on and we just wanted to come out really strong,” said Chabal, who threw nine consecutive strikes in the first inning to retire the side. “Our coaching staff has been great, and I think we’re ready.”
Besides being a short game, Thursday’s drubbing also was a milestone victory for Rachel West, who had the daunting task of replacing Jim White as the CCA coach this season.
“Of course, it’s exciting,” said West, who graduated from Danville High School and played softball for the University of Iowa from 2006-09. “But I like to take things one game at a time. It’s just another game. We don’t need to put extra hype on it.”
White built the Clippers into a perennial softball power before accepting the head coaching position at Solon. CCA has won 10 state titles in softball and has advanced to each of the past four state tournaments.
The current team was in the unusual position of being unranked heading into the playoffs.
“Coming in, I think it was a process of getting to know the players and the players getting to know us and then jelling,” West said. “And I think once we did that we’ve been able to make our climb. I think we’re on a roll right now and just trying to keep it going.”
Chabal described the season in a similar way.
“It started a little bit rough and then we just kind of clicked, and once that happened, it’s been good,” Chabal said.
The Clippers scored five runs in the first inning, six in the second and two in the third before the game was stopped by the 12-run mercy rule, which takes effect after three innings. Every player for CCA reached base, and all but one had at least one hit.
Senior third baseman Tara Walls led the hit barrage with a two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore right fielder Lauren Stopko also had three hits and scored three runs.
As for Chabal, she struck out seven of the 10 batters she faced. Grinnell scored its only run after Walls fielded a bunt by Regan Sharp, but then threw wildly to first base. The ball rolled to the right field fence, allowing Sharp to round the bases.
As a senior, Chabal knows the opponent will be much tougher Saturday. Carlisle already has defeated CCA once this season by a 2-0 margin.
“We start preparing tomorrow,” she said.
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Alyssa Hulsing, Emilee Hulsing (2) and Regan Sharp. Grace Chabal and Eden Cambell. 2B – Eden Campbell (CCA). HR – Tara Walls (CCA).