Jul. 10—Kallie VanKley has made her mark for the Newton softball team mostly as a pitcher.
But her hard work in the batting cages recently paid off for the Cardinals against Des Moines Hoover during the opening round of the Class 4A Region 3 tournament.
VanKley tallied two hits and three RBIs at the plate and struck out 10 in the circle as the Cardinals advanced to Saturday's semifinal round following an 11-0, five-inning win over the Huskies at H.A. Lynn Softball Field.
"That felt really good," VanKley said about her performance at the dish. "I have been putting in a lot of work in the cage with Coach Tisdale. He's been helping us out a lot and it feels good to see the reward from that."
The Cardinals (16-18) are in the second round of the postseason after not winning a game last year.
They take on 4A No. 13 Bondurant-Farrar at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Bondurant. The two teams last met in the playoffs on July 11, 2019, and the Cardinals won that game, 2-1, at home.
Newton got off to a fast start against the Huskies (6-23). The Cardinals plated four runs in each of the first two innings and ended the game after Hoover batted in the top of the fifth inning.
"It's probably the most relaxed I got to be in a game this season," Newton softball coach Kory Leiker said. "We jumped on them early and kept the foot on the gas. That was nice to see.
"It was very important to get out to a fast start. If you let a team like that hang around, they'll just keep gaining confidence. Finishing it off without a run was good, too."
In the first, Chassidy Henwood singled and Katelyn Lambert walked to open the frame. They moved up a base on a double steal and then Henwood scored on Jazlynn Cooper's RBI double. Chloe Swank also singled and VanKley's two-run double made it 4-0.
In the second, Vanessa Vasseau singled but was erased on the bases when Henwood grounded into a fielder's choice. Lambert walked again before Henwood scored on a passed ball.
Kya Butler's RBI single made it 6-0 and Cooper reached on an infield single. Another double steal put runners at second and third and Swank's RBI ground out scored one. VanKley followed with an RBI infield single.
Cooper finished with three hits, two runs, one RBI and one stolen base. One of her hits was a double.
"It felt pretty good," Cooper said. "I just acted like I was in the cage. I was ready to see the ball and hit it."
The Cardinals went up 9-0 in the third. Taylor Lust reached on an error and Henwood's one-out single moved her to third. Lambert's RBI sacrifice fly to left field added another run to scoreboard.
Henwood finished with two hits and one steal and she scored two runs. Lambert walked twice, scored two runs, stole one base and had one RBI.
"I am happy for Chassidy to be able to walk off this field for the final time with a win," Leiker said. "And a playoff win is even better."
The final runs of the game came in the bottom of the fourth. VanKley reached on a fielder's choice, but it was the second out of the inning. Kadance Ahn's RBI triple scored courtesy runner Haylie Ryan and Ahn scored on a Hoover error.
That was plenty of support for VanKley, who allowed just three hits in the circle and struck out 10 while walking just one. She struck out the side in the second and third innings and fanned two in the fourth.
VanKley (7-10) lowered her earned run average to 2.92 and she now has 85 strikeouts.
"I just needed to hit the pitches that were called, trust my defense and not be afraid to throw it in the zone when I was down in the counts," VanKley said. "We had some success with pitches up in the zone when we were up in the count."
VanKley is the most veteran pitcher on the team. She has thrown 110 innings this season but two other teammates have tossed at least 41 innings.
She expected to pitch in the game but didn't know who was throwing until shortly before the game started.
"I just prepare as if I am going to throw, but I found out right before the game," VanKley said. "We have four pitchers and we have trust in each other. I trust that the coaches will put the best girl out there for each game. And if it would have been someone else I would have been their biggest fan. I was just glad to have the ball for the game."
Leiker said her experience was a big reason he went with VanKley in the postseason opener. He'll continue to depend on his most veteran arm as the regional tournament progresses.
"She had a few nerves. It was a big moment for her but once we got some runs in the first inning, she was able to settle down a little bit," Leiker said. "She located her pitches a lot better tonight. I was proud of her performance."
Butler finished with one hit, one run, one RBI and one steal for Newton, while Ahn tripled, scored one run and had one RBI. Swank finished with one hit and one RBI, Vasseau tallied one hit and Mackayla Johnson, Madison Henwood and Ryan all scored one run. Madison Henwood also stole one base.
Bondurant-Farrar comes into Saturday's regional semifinal at 21-14 but is losers of four of its last six games. The Lady Jays feature the state's home run leader in Katelyn Lappe. She has 21 home runs and is batting .606 this summer.
"Our energy needs to stay up and we have to come ready to play," Cooper said. "If we are not ready to play, it will be tough to win."
Notes: Hoover ended the season with 13 straight losses. Alayna Jarrett had two of the Huskies' three hits in the loss to Newton. ... The Cardinals were 0-18 last year and lost their only postseason game 8-0. ... Newton also has lost four of its last six games. ... Newton and B-F played six common opponents. The Cardinals defeated Grand View Christian 8-7 and B-F lost 5-4. Both teams defeated West Marshall and PCM and lost to Knoxville. B-F defeated Boone twice and Newton lost once. Oskaloosa went 2-1 against Newton this season but lost to B-F 12-2.