Roosevelt’s seniors knew what was at stake.
A 10-1 win over previously-unbeaten Rapid City Stevens meant they were just one win away from closing out an undefeated season and claiming their third straight state championship.
Their goals within reach, the Riders set their sights on Brandon Valley.
Their win earlier in the day meant the Riders just had to win one of the next two in order to claim the championship. But when it was all said and done, they didn’t even need an entire seven innings.
Led by its senior core, Roosevelt closed out the Lynx in five innings with an 11-1 victory.
“Honestly, the seniors, they stepped it up,” coach Scott Roth said. “Beyond a phenomenal game. Defense, offense, they did everything. They knew what they needed to do and they exceeded expectations there, that was for sure.”
After picking up her 700th career strikeout in game one, Baylor commit Lexi Koltz racked up seven Ks against the Lynx, allowing just one run on six hits. She delivered at the plate, too, going 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored.
Fellow senior Abby Schultz also had a big afternoon at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI.
At the top of the lineup, sophomore Shayla Running provided a significant spark, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI.
“Until five minutes before game one, we weren’t sure who was actually going to be that leadoff girl,” Roth explained. “We knew we had some hitters, but we asked Shayla to jump into that spot and she, like she has all year, executed and did what we needed her to do.”
After needing four innings to get on the board against No. 2 Stevens, the Riders pounced on Brandon Valley early, scoring five runs over the first two innings.
Koltz got things started in the first by driving in a pair with an RBI double.
Running doubled home two more an inning later, then came around to score on Tahia Mitzel’s double off the wall in center, making it 5-0 Roosevelt after two innings.
“We did plenty of scouting on Brandon (earlier in the day),” Roth said. “We scouted their pitchers, made a gameplan and the girls absolutely executed everything on it.”
Down 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Valley created a bit of intrigue, loading the bases with two outs. But just as it looked like the Lynx were ready to take a run at the two-time defending champs, the Riders came through and extinguished the rally, getting the out at home following a passed ball on strike three.
The Lynx failed to cash in and Roosevelt made them pay in the next half-inning.
Koltz opened the inning with a mammoth home run to deep center field. Back-to-back doubles by Mackenzie Risnes and Macy Schroedermeier pushed the lead to 8-1. Following an RBI single from Running, Schultz put the Riders in mercy-rule territory with a two-run blast that made it 11-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Two outs and one final “K” from Koltz, and Roosevelt had its third consecutive championship.
It was a fitting conclusion to the careers of the team’s seven seniors. The group that helped bring Roosevelt its first state softball title back in 2014 departs as the first undefeated championship team (25-0-1) since the 2012 Washington Warriors.
“The last inning, I had to get off my bucket and walk around. (I was) just taking it all in,” said Roth, who had coached many of the girls since they were six years old. “It wasn’t until the picture taking…that one, there was a lot of tears from the girls, which led me to shed a few. But at the end it was tears of joy, knowing that they accomplished something that only one other team has done.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .