McKenna Henze did something on Saturday she hadn't done in more than 300 previous varsity at bats.
She hit a home run.
Henze couldn’t have picked a better moment to smack her first round tripper.
Henze’s three-run shot in the top of the 11th inning gave Glenwood a 4-1 lead and lifted the Rams to a 4-2 victory over Harlan in the Class 4A, Region 8 semifinals on Saturday.
Glenwood coach Tim Stanton and most of his team leapt from the dugout after Henze smacked the first pitch she saw with two outs in the 11th.
“I jumped higher than I have in months,” Stanton said. “She has been hitting the ball really hard, she’s been a fantastic lead-off hitter for us and she’s one of our strongest players. And so as she hit it, you knew it was gone.”
No. 10 ranked Glenwood (26-9) is scheduled to play No. 6 Winterset (28-13) tonight in the Region 8 final at Atlantic. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
Henze’s blast nearly overshadowed a classic pitcher’s duel between the Rams’ Molly Bryan and Harlan ace Taylor Schaben.
Through most of seven regulation innings and the four extra frames, the two pitchers battled.
Harlan got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning when Bri Nelson reached on an error and took second base on the overthrow and then stole third. Jenna Hoch’s sacrifice bunt then scored Nelson for the 1-0 lead.
Glenwood would continue to struggle against Schaben – who allowed one hit through the first two innings – until Henze smacked a single to centerfield and stole second base to open the third. A sacrifice bunt by Lisa Nebel moved Henze over and Bryan smacked her second sharp single off Schaben to drive in Henze and knot the score.
The score would remain that way for the next six innings.
But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Glenwood had runners on in every inning and stranded 12 for the night. Harlan left 10 on base.
“We had runners all night, we just couldn’t seem to get them that last 60 feet,” Stanton said.
The Rams opened the 11th with a pop out by Grace Newman and a ground out by Bailey Starner before Jordyn Hanshaw, a late inning defensive replacement, legged out an infield hit and Brittany Rodgers blooped a hit over the third baseman’s head. Back to the top of the order, Henze, a junior shortstop, wasted no time going after Schaben, smacking the first pitch she saw over the left field wall for her three-run shot.
“She always hit’s the ball hard, she’s just never lifted one,” Stanton said of Henze, who finished the night 3-for-6 with three RBIs. “I’m so happy for her We have a list of people that have hit home runs over there on that door (in the dugout) and she’s been dying to get on there. And tonight was her night. It wasn’t un-expected but it was a huge moment for her.”
The Cyclones came back in the bottom half of the frame to cut the lead to 4-2 on a solo home run by Harley Heese but they would get no closer. Bryan struck out Katrina Knudsen to end the game.
Bryan was masterful most of the night. She threw a season-high 156 pitches, striking out 17 and scattered six hits while going 2-for-2 at the plate with an RBI and four mostly intentional walks.
“Molly Bryan is the best softball player in Iowa,” he said. “Show me a better one and I’ll be impressed. She is the real deal. She is not afraid of anything. She has kept her poise all year when teams haven’t pitched to her. This is Harlan and they’re not pitching to her. She is the best softball player I’ve seen.”
Creston’s Madison Frain held the Glenwood offense to just two hits in a 3-0 victory last Tuesday.
Frain struck out seven and allowed just one extra-base hit.
Lisa Nebel took the loss for Glenwood, allowing nine hits and three earned runs. She also struck out six.
Nebel and Grace Newman recorded the Rams two hits.
Glenwood plated three runs in the first inning and that was all they would need in a 5-0 Hawkeye 10 Conference victory over Shenandoah last Monday.
Molly Bryan tossed a no-hitter and fanned 10 in the victory.
Bryan also went 2-for-2 at the late with a pair of RBIs.
Lisa Nebel and Jaelin Stanton each had two hits.