After barely getting into the state tournament, the Malcolm softball team showed it definitely belonged in the mix amongst the best in the state. Going in as the No. 8 seed, the Clippers finished in the final four of Class C.
Malcolm began Class C state tournament play Oct. 16 in Hastings with a rematch of its district final contest against top-seeded Fairbury. The Clippers struggled to get anything going against the Jeffs ace. Jami Mans scattered eight hits while her team offered plenty of offensive support as the eventual state champs cruised to an 11-4 opening round win.
The loss meant Malcolm got on the long road back through the elimination bracket. The Clippers’ Oct. 17 first game was against No. 5 seed Kearney Catholic. The runs started piling up for Malcolm in an eight-run second inning that helped the Clippers cruise to a 15-6 run-rule win over the Stars.
The five-hit second inning included a two-run triple from Alyssa Fortik. In the third, Malcolm added five more runs with the help of home runs from Jaiden Helms and Hailey Wessel. The Clippers hit eight home runs in the tournament.
“We have a dangerous lineup,” Malcolm co-head coach Travis Meyer said. “If you consider our ability to play small ball, our speed and our power, when we get our bats going, runs can add up in a hurry.”
The Clippers’ second game of the day proved to be more of a challenge as it took extra innings to eliminate No. 6 seed Arlington. Anna Schroeder had a pair of doubles and a triple while Taylor Glause hit a two-run home run.
Wessel went the distance in the win, allowing just two earned runs as the Clippers committed three errors.
“We asked a lot out of both our pitchers,” Meyer said. “And we didn’t always defend well, which puts even more pressure on them.
“All-in-all, I’m pleased with the effort both of our pitchers gave us throughout the tournament.”
The Clippers’ third game of the day proved to be the final game of the season as they faced a familiar foe. For the third time this season, Malcolm played No. 7 seed Auburn. In the rubber match, the Bulldogs had the upper hand as they eliminated the Clippers in a 16-11 slugfest.
Malcolm had the early advantage as it jumped out to a 5-0 lead with the help of home runs from Wessel and Jordyn Virus. The lead was short-lived as a combination of hot hitting by Auburn and messy fielding by Malcolm resulted in combined 12 runs in the fourth and fifth innings for Auburn.
“We didn’t defend it well and gave up a lot unearned runs,” Meyer said. “By that point, our pitchers were tired. To their credit, they battled and never quit.”
The Clippers ended their season with a 22-11 record and a fourth place finish at the state tournament. For the seniors, it was third trip to the state tournament in four years.
Amongst the five seniors are the team’s three leading hitters. Glause finished the year with a .469 batting average while hitting six home runs and tying the team lead with five triples.
Wessel hit .421 this season while leading the team with nine home runs and five triples. She also led the team in the pitching circle with 14 wins and 115 strikeouts.
Schroeder hit .461 with 22 doubles and four home runs. As a pitcher, she compiled 50 strikeouts while earning nine wins.
“I’ve seen our seniors go from role players to leaders and it’s been a great ride,” Meyer said. “From Hailey, Taylor and Anna piling up big numbers to the kind of leaders Emily (Sandell) and Rayce (Anderson) were in the dugout, they will all be missed.
“I will miss them as players for sure. But, I will miss them most as great people.”