A funny thing happened to No. 3 Solon on the way to the Class 4A championship.
The Spartans were upset Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the 4A state softball tournament 6-1 by Washington at Rogers Sports Complex.
“I think we came out a little too cocky, to be honest,” Solon senior Emma Rickels said. “(Washington) came out and played their game, and we ended up pressing the whole game and didn’t play loose like we usually do.”
Washington (30-11) came into the state tournament unranked and as nobody’s favorite.
“Most people in the state of Iowa were not expecting us to win this ballgame,” Washington coach Angie Shrader said. “We had absolutely no pressure. We just came out and played softball.”
The Demons finished fourth at state a year ago and returned all but one starter, but fell out of the rankings late in the season.
“I think a lot of people forgot about us,” Shrader said. “Solon is obviously a good ballclub. They were probably overlooking us, not expecting us to come in and play softball.”
The Demons jumped on the Spartans right away, getting singles from Sammy Ellingson, Kaitlin Buchholz and Stephanie Fishback, followed by a three-run triple by Joni Erwin in the bottom of the first inning.
“That gave us a boost,” Washington junior pitcher Ashley Rausch said. “We kind of knew that no one thought we would win. We just wanted to prove them wrong.”
Washington added another run in the second inning on an RBI single by Ellingson and led 4-0.
“They got the lead right away and it seemed to be contagious for them,” Solon coach Jim White said. “We seemed to press a little bit after that.”
Solon (40-3) had lost only twice all season — a pair of games against No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes — so there wasn’t any panic … at first.
“We have been down and come back every time,” White said. “It was the first time we’ve been down real early. And once we didn’t catch up, they got a couple more, and we did some uncharacteristic things.”
Solon got a run in the second inning when Ali Herdliska doubled, stole third and came home on a sacrifice fly by Emily Ira.
But the Spartans left runners on base in six of the seven innings — eight runners stranded, total.
“(Being down early) put a lot of pressure on us,” Rickels said. “Usually, we handle it really well. But we’re in Fort Dodge now, on the big stage.
“Usually we’re cool and collected, today we were amped up.”
As the outs and innings ticked past, so too did the pressure on the Spartans.
“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Rickels said. “We just kind of fell flat.”
Rausch held Solon — which came in hitting .436 as a team — to five hits. She also had three walks.
“They have a great hitting team,” Rausch said. “My goal wasn’t to strike everyone out, but to hold them off-balance, let them put it in play. I knew my defense would be there for me.”
Washington added two more runs in the fourth inning. Buchholz had an RBI double and Rausch had an RBI single.
The Demons had 12 hits, with eight players each collecting at least one.
“That has to be, by far, the most hits our pitching has given up this season,” White said. “That’s the way momentum works.”
It was a tough end for Solon, which came to state a year ago ranked No. 1 and finished runner-up. Solon will face No. 11 Waverly-Shell Rock (34-9) at noon today in a consolation semifinal.
“It’s the first time I’ve done this Wednesday thing,” White said. “It’s tough to recover. These kids were thinking championship, so it makes it really tough.”
White, who had not lost a first-round state tournament game at his previous job at Clear Creek Amana since 1999, said he would look to his seniors today.
Rickels got choked up talking about what this season has meant to the seniors.
“It’s been an amazing season,” Rickels said. “It’s an amazing group of girls. For us seniors, its hard to see it go. It’s been amazing.”
Washington advanced to a Class 4A semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 4 Carlisle (32-7).
“Our goal now is we don’t want to win one game and be happy with that,” Schrader said.
Rausch and the Demons beat Carlisle in the first round last season.
“This is just so much fun,” Rausch said. “We made it state, we deserve to be here. We have as much of a chance as anybody else.”
Emily Ira, Holly Hinkel (4) and Ali Herdliska; Ashley Rausch and Kaitlin Buchholz. W – Rausch (17-9). L – Ira (19-2). 2B – Taylor Nearad (S), Ali Herdliska (S), Buchholz (W). 3B – Joni Erwin (W).