The final Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader of the season proved to be both business and pleasure for the West High softball team.
First came the business, as Class 5A fourth-ranked West High clinched the MVC Valley Division title with a 3-0 win over Linn-Mar in the opener.
Then the Women of Troy had some fun.
Adara Opiola hit a home run and senior Madi Miller added an RBI triple as West High (33-5) completed the sweep, rallying for a 5-2 win in the regular-season finale for both teams at West High.
“We knew we had to get one win for the conference, and we relaxed after that first game and we had some fun,” West High senior Grace Tafolla said. “Even when we were down 2-1 at one point we were still relaxed and we knew we would put some runs together and we did.”
West High won four MVC games in two days to clinch the Valley Division title.
The Women of Troy swept Cedar Rapids Washington on Wednesday before Thursday’s sweep of Linn-Mar, finishing 24-2 in conference play in the process.
West High finished two games clear of second place Cedar Rapids Jefferson, which was 22-4 in conference play.
With the conference title secured West High will turn its attention to the postseason, which starts Saturday with a Class 5A Region 6 semifinal against Cedar Rapids Washington.
“It’s always nice to win the conference but in the grand scheme of things we want to make it to state,” Tafolla said. “This is definitely a nice touch to show the hard work we put in this season.”
Jessie Harder made sure the nightcap was pressure-free for West High.
Harder tossed a complete-game shutout in the opener, improving her season record to 18-4.
The junior right-hander allowed seven hits and struck out one without walking a batter.
Senior Laynie Whitehead was nearly as impressive in the nightcap, holding Linn-Mar to just two runs on four hits as West High secured the sweep.
“They were both great tonight,” West High coach Justin Lutjen said. “I think the biggest thing is that it is confidence for them knowing that our defense is great behind them. They’ve been as good as they have been all season right now.”
Tafolla gave West High an early 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning of the nightcap, but Linn-Mar rallied back.
The Lions took their only lead of the doubleheader with a pair of runs in the second inning.
The lead didn’t last long.
Opiola tied the score with a solo blast to left center-field to tie the score 2-2 and West High added three runs in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead it would never give up.
Rachael Saunders and Taleah Smith had back-to-back singles to open the inning and Miller added an RBI triple in the three-run fourth.
“Rachael Saunders came up with a big hit to get the inning started,” Lutjen said. “I’m proud of her because we gave her a shot tonight and she hit the ball well.”
That was more than enough support for Whitehead, who allowed just two hits over the final five innings.
The senior left-hander struck out two and walked one in the win.
“My arm was a little tired after pitching last night but I wanted to bounce back,” Whitehead said. “My defense was great tonight behind me.”
Smith had two hits and scored twice in the nightcap while Tafolla had two hits and drove in a run.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Linn-Mar…000 000 0—0 7 1
West High…000 120 x—3 6 1
W—Jessie Harder. L—Maddy Ryan
2B—Elison Ollinger (LM); Skylar Ryan (ICW)
HR—Taylor Libby (ICW)
Linn-Mar…020 000 0—2 4 4
West High…101 300 x—5 8 0
W—Laynie Whitehead. L—Morgan Braughton
3B—Madi Miller (ICW).
HR—Adara Opiola (ICW)