A record-setting season for the Ankeny Centennial softball team came to an abrupt end on Saturday night.
The Jaguars dropped a 9-0 decision in a Class 5A regional semifinal at third-ranked Indianola, which got a one-hitter from Sydney Sickles and a pair of two-run homers by Brooke Tucker.
“It was just the luck of the draw,” said Centennial coach Randy Schneider. “They’re definitely a better team than we are, and I give them a lot of credit. They came out and hit the ball hard.”
Indianola (33-3) avenged a 4-3 loss to Centennial at the Dallas Center-Grimes Invitational on June 29. The Indians will host Ottumwa in the regional final on Tuesday.
The Jaguars finished with a 25-16 record, the most wins in school history.
“We all did our best,” said Centennial shortstop Franie Burnett, who had the Jaguars’ only hit of the game. “I’m really proud of our team and the season we had.”
Centennial did not face Sickels, an Illinois recruit, in the earlier game against Indianola. On Saturday, the hard-throwing righthander turned in a dominant performance.
After walking Lauren Birt with one out in the first inning, Sickels retired the next 12 batters that she faced, including 11 in a row by strikeout.
“We knew she elevated the ball on that riseball,” Schneider said. “We tried to get the kids to lay off the riseball, but they just came out and flailed at it.”
Burnett spoiled Sickels’ bid for a no-hitter with one out in the fifth inning. She singled off the glove of Indianola second baseman Taylor Bowlin.
“We prepared a week and a half for Indianola just because we figured we would beat North (in the quarterfinals),” Burnett said. “We had a lot of tactics, and what I did was just putting out the bat and getting the bat on the ball. That was what coach wanted us to do, so I listened to him and it worked.”
Burnett stole second base with two outs, but she tried to advance when the ball got away and was thrown out at third to end the inning. Cassi Garland later walked with two outs in the seventh, but Haley Gatica then grounded out to end the game.
Sickels (24-1) finished with 13 strikeouts.
“Her riseball was really good,” Burnett said. “It was hard to see and hard to make it out.”
Gatica (12-7) took the loss for the Jaguars. She pitched a 1-2-3 first inning before running into trouble in the second, when Tucker hit the first of her two homers and Bowlin later added an RBI double off the left-field fence.
“They didn’t see Haley before, and we thought her throwing hard would help us,” Schneider said. “I thought she threw kind of well, but they were taking some hacks.”
Schneider brought in reliever Kayla Stone, who gave up an RBI single by Emma Yenger in the third inning. The Indians added two more runs in the fourth before the Jaguars handed the ball to Karlie Kaiser, who allowed Tucker’s second home run in the fifth.
Indianola scored its final run in the sixth inning, when freshman Destiny Lewis blasted her 13th homer of the season.
“I don’t think our kids should feel too deflated,” Schneider said. “I know it’s never fun to lose 9-0, but I think they’ve had a great season. They won so many big games and even beat this team (Indianola) last week. They’ve got a lot to be proud of.”