FORT DODGE, Ia. – Solon’s three seniors started playing together as fifth-graders. They took their final steps as teammates Friday to claim a state title trophy.
The top-ranked Spartans beat No. 2 Benton of Van Horne 3-1 Friday in the Class 3-A state softball championship at Rogers Sports Complex.
At the postgame trophy presentation, Taylor Nearad, Ali Herdliska and Emily Ira walked on the diamond in a deliberately patient pace.
The seniors hoisted the championship award and then the rest of the players ran to them, cheering.
“It means so much to go out like that,” Ira said.
The 12th-graders finished on top. All three were named to the all-tournament team, with Nearad earning captain honors.
Ira threw a five-hitter and struck out 14 batters, including a stretch of seven in a row. She finished the season with 363 strikeouts.
Nearad homered in all three state tournament games.
Herdliska also hit a home run, giving a spark to a team that tied the state tournament three-game record with 28 total runs scored.
They were joined on the all-tournament team by junior Sydney Lawson.
The girls are like sisters after playing together for so long. Nearad and Herdliska started in tee-ball at the same time.
“We’ve grown so close, even from last year to this year,” Ira said.
Benton finished the season at 43-3.
Solon’s Monika Bevans walked in the second inning and was replaced by Molly Duckett. Jess Heick followed with a run-scoring double.
Ira led off the sixth inning with a double and Nearad hit a two-run homer over the center field fence. Nearad hit three of her 11 homers this season during the state tournament.
“I didn’t really expect it to happen,” Nearad said.
Benton scored its run in the bottom of the sixth. Alyssa Wiebel doubled and scored on Jaicee Lyons’ single.
Wiebel was an all-tournament pick along with fellow Benton athletes Lea Brunssen, Shelby Hulsebus and Amber Fiser.
The other all-tournament selections: Libby Ryan of Mount Vernon, Marissa Promes of Greene County of Jefferson and Olivia Brecht of Center Point-Urbana.
Solon won its first state softball crown since 2007 in the final game for its seniors.
“It’s really sad,” Nearad said. “I’m going to miss this team so much.”
For girls who spent eight years as teammates, it was an emotional ending.
“We finished what we started,” Ira said.
At Fort Dodge
Solon…010 002 0—3 5 1
Benton…000 001 0—1 5 0
Leading hitters—S: Nearad 2×3, 1 run, 2 RBI; Ira 1×3, 1 run; Heick 1×3, 1 RBI; B: Wiebel 1×3, 1 run; Lyons 1×3, 1 RBI. HR—Nearad. W—Ira. L—Fiser.
- Ali Herdliska, Solon
- Lea Brunssen, Benton (Van Horne)
- Sydney Lawson, Solon
- Shelby Hulsebus, Benton (Van Horne)
- Libby Ryan, Mount Vernon
- Marissa Promes, Greene County
- Olivia Brecht, Center Point-Urbana
- Amber Fiser, Benton (Van Horne)
- Emily Ira, Solon
- Alyssa Wiebel, Benton (Van Horne)
- Taylor Nearad, Solon (Captain)