Jun. 23—OTTUMWA — It's been a long five years.
At least the finale of Senior Night wasn't quite as long for Amber Shotts and the rest of her Ottumwa softball teammates. After rallying in the seventh to avoid dropping the first game of a CIML Metro conference doubleheader with Des Moines Hoover, the Bulldog bats came alive again in the second game to complete a sweep on an emotional night at Frank Huston Field as Ottumwa followed a 7-6 win in eight innings over the Huskies (5-12, 1-11 CIML Metro) by polishing off a 10-0 win in just five innings in game two, bringing the curtain down on the twinbill by scoring eight times in the bottom of the fifth.
"It's definitely one of those nights where the girls feel like they need to win this one for the seniors. I've been a part of five Senior Nights now. I've always felt like you go out there to do the best for the entire team," said Shotts, the only Ottumwa senior that played in both games on Senior Night. "You try to go out there and win it as a team for the entire team, not just for a few people.
"It was weird. Normally I'm the one holding up gift or holding the rose waiting for a hug from the seniors being honored. Being the one to walk through and receive the gift is definitely a little surreal. It definitely tugs at the heartstrings. I'm definitely going to miss this group of girls."
Shotts did her part to ensure that Hoover did not spoil Senior Night or Ottumwa's pursuit of the CIML Metro conference softball title. Down 6-3 with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Shotts got the Bulldogs going with a double to deep center over the head of Hoover junior Kaitlynn Asher.
Jordan Pauls lined out to right, leaving the Bulldogs down to their final out of the opener. Emma Strayer and Samantha Weeks both singled with two outs, putting the tying runs on base for Madelyn Houk who lifted a fly ball out to Asher who had the ball for a split second in her glove, but could not control the running catch allowing Strayer and Weeks to dash around the bases as Ottumwa forced extra innings by tying the game at 6-6.
Shotts would come back up to the plate in the eighth, this time with the score still tied and two runners in scoring position for the Bulldogs. With just one out, Shotts did enough to bring home Avery Frankie with the winning run by lifting a fly ball out to center that was deep enough to allow Frankie to dash home from third base on the catch by Asher.
"I popped up quite a bit in the last couple of games," Shotts said. "I just wanted the ball to get out of the infield. I know that Avery's fast enough to tag and make it home from third. All I cared about was getting the ball out of the infield."
All four seniors got to contribute to the Senior Night wins on Wednesday. Ransom started at first base, playing all eight innings while collecting one of Ottumwa's eight hits from eight different players including the seventh-inning double by Shotts. Wellings started at third base in game two, going 1-3 with a single to center during the game-clinching fifth-inning rally that made a winner out Bradley, who allowed just one hit over five innings ultimately coming within one hit off the bat of Asher with two outs in the fifth of tossing a Senior Night no-hitter.
"I've had such a much better season because I've been pitching with much more confidence," said Bradley, who has overcome a torn ACL suffered as a freshman in basketball to pitch at an all-conference level for the Bulldogs with future plans to play college softball at Culver-Stockton still on the horizon. "I feel like I can go out there and perform without getting blown out of the water. That's something that used to scare me. It's my senior year. I knew this would be my year and I wanted to make it my year."
Ottumwa (15-8, 12-2 CIML Metro) heads to eighth-ranked (5A) Southeast Polk on Thursday before traveling to the Brian Erbe Classic. The Bulldogs faces No. 13 (5A) Dubuque Hempstead and No. 11 (5A) Bettendorf in back-to-back games on Diamond 1 at Cedar Rapids Jefferson on Friday starting at approximately 10:45 a.m.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.