Kenzie Ihle didn't let her ninth-ranked (Class 3A) Ballard softball team down.
After an error by the Bomber defense led to three Solon runs in the top of the sixth, Ihle struck with a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning, leading Ballard to a 5-4 victory in the state championship at Rogers Park.
The homer was the second of the game for Ihle, who also struck out three batters inside the circle. The sophomore finished 2-for-3 on the day with four RBI to lead the Bombers (35-9 overall) to the first state softball title in school history on Diamond 1 last night.
Ballard's defense, which had three errors in the game, made an incredible play to end it, throwing out the game-tying run at home after not getting the potential third out at first base.
"I knew our defense would come back and make a big play," Ihle said.
But, after hitting a homer earlier, did Ihle expect Solon to pitch to her in the sixth?
Ballard 5, Solon 4
Solon 000 013 0 4 9 1
Ballard 010 103 x 5 7 3
Arran Weeces (L, 20-3, 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K) and Hannah Turkal; Kenzie Ihle (W, 24-6, 7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and Brooke Mallon. HR B: Grace Hall, Ihle (2). 2B S: Emily Bransky, Rylee Smith; B: Annie Stolte. RBI S: Bransky, Weeces, Smith (2); B: Hall, Ihle (4). LOB S: 8; B: 3.
"Yeah, I thought they would," Ihle smiled. "It was just a perfect pitch and I knew it was gone when I hit it."
Grace Hall also recorded a home run in her final game at Ballard. Hall will play both softball and basketball at Simpson College later this year.
Solon (37-7) entered the state tournament as the No. 1 team, but struggled to find any offense against Ihle for the better part of five innings. Rylee Smith went 3-for-3 with two RBI, including a big double that gave them the lead in the sixth for a short while.
Arran Weeces struck out 11 and allowed two earned runs, scattering seven hits in the loss.
Solon lost a run in the sixth after it was ruled that the batter touched home plate on a hit that scored a run. Instead, the run was taken off the scoreboard and the rally ended.
The Spartans, who finished eighth a year ago, were looking for their second state title since 2007.