Comets punch fourth-straight state ticket with mercy-rule win over Mohawks
By John Burbridge
CHARLES CITY — With a convincing 11-1 mercy-rule beckoning win over Mason City in the Class 4A-Region 3 final on Tuesday, the Charles City Comets punched their fourth-straight ticket to the State Softball Championships to take place next week at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Except this time they’re not coming back … or not to Mark Fluher Softball Diamond at Sportsmen’s Park.
The regional win is likely the last game the Comets will play at their longtime home with a pending new sports complex slated to be ready by next season.
The victory was also the last home game for all-state senior ace Sami Heyer, who picked up her state-leading 33rd win of the season with yet another no-hit performance while striking out eight and walking none in five innings.
The only run scored off Heyer, which came in the first inning giving the Mohawks a short-lived lead, was unearned.
As usual, Heyer got more than enough offensive support.
Freshman Rachel Chambers was 3 for 3 with a 2-run home run in the first inning which gave the Comets the lead for good. Chambers leads the team with 14 homers, and with 3 runs batted in during the regional final, now has 65 RBIs for the season, which also leads the team.
Sophomore Allie Cross clubbed a 3-run homer that just exceeded the reach of Mohawk left fielder Shaye Theobald as part of a 5-run third inning.
Comet freshman Ashlyn Hoeft was 3 for 3, Lydia Staudt — another CC frosh — was 2 for 2 with a 2-run triple and a sacrifice bunt, junior Alex Litterer reached base three times with a pair of singles and a walk, and Comet sophomore Kiki Connell had two hits while driving in the final 2 runs of a game when her blooper to short center field prompted a scary collision between Mohawk shortstop Anna Lensing and center fielder Alicia Hoeft.
Though not one to get nostalgic about longtime home softball fields as he has pointed out that the Comets — as well as the Comettes — have called other sites their home throughout the program’s history, but Charles City head coach Brian Bohlen considers this final game at Fluher Diamond/Sportsmen’s Park as his favorite of all time.
“Why? Just look around you. Look at all the fan support we got today,” Bohlen said. “It also was a great game for Sami (Heyer) to end her career here. I’ve never seen an athlete work harder than her.
“We’re going to miss this place. But one thing I’m not going to miss is spending all day out here sponging up water. We had 40 people out here today getting this field ready.”
In an earlier meeting during a tournament they hosted, the Mohawks gave the Comets one of their toughest challenges of the season — at least from the northern part of the state — when they lost the tournament final 4-1 after trailing 2-1 through six innings. Taking advantage of an error with opportune and somewhat daring base running for its 1-0 lead, Mason City looked posed to give the Comets another game challenge.
But Charles City got production from top to bottom in its lineup, and may have finished the game earlier if not for four Comets being erased on the bases — three of which were would-be base stealers shot down by Mohawk freshman catcher Lainna Duncan.
Last season at Rogers Sports Complex, the Comets had a tough week while losing both of their games. In 2017, the Comets won their first-round game and eventually finished fourth. In 2016, Charles City won the consolation bracket for a fifth-place showing.
The Comets (35-3) will be making their 28th state softball appearance. Last year at 27, they were tied with Ottumwa and Ankeny.
Clear Creek-Amana led with 34 state appearances.
The first-round games for Class 4A start next Tuesday (July 23). The championship game for the eight-team bracket is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. the following Friday (July 26).