Gaels are coming home

OGDEN – Allie Oberg summed it up with one word.

“Relief,” Oberg said following St. Edmond’s 4-0 victory over Des Moines Christian here Monday night in a Class 2A, Regional 7 final.

The sixth-ranked Gaels (26-8 overall) will return to Rogers Park and the state tournament next week for the first time since 2010, when they captured the consolation championship. They will meet Ridge View (30-11) on Diamond 1 Monday at 5 p.m.

Katie Donnelly shut down the defending state runner-up Lions (19-13), limiting them to four hits. The senior and Coe College-recruit worked herself out of a no-out, runner-on-third jam in the fifth, finishing with five strikeouts and two walks.

Oberg had two hits, including an RBI single during a four-run fifth when St. Edmond didn’t get the ball out of the infield.

Last year, the Gaels were upended in a regional final on this very field by Van Meter. Oberg and fellow senior Katy Bocken had a dicussion about that game on the bus ride over Monday.

“We didn’t want this to be another season-ending site,” Oberg said. “Katy and I talked about (last year) and that we needed to do everything we could to win this game.

“All I am asked to do is get base hits, and I was able to do that (Monday night).”

Des Moines Christian pitcher Emma James looked untouchable in the first inning, striking out two and inducing a grounder. Oberg then connected on a fastball in the second that resulted in an out, but provided confidence for later in the game.

“Oh yeah, just making contact, putting the ball in play and nearly getting that hit was big for our team,” Oberg said. “We knew that if we stayed patient, all the work we put in during the offseason lifting would pay off for us because we are a strong team.

“My mom also spent countless hours over the years throwing me pitch, after pitch, after pitch. I can’t thank her enough for that.”

Donnelly, who had the first base hit off James (17-11), started the contest the same way she did last week in a one-hit victory over Carroll Kuemper – by hitting leadoff batter Maddie Wagner.

“Whoops. Sorry about that,” Donnelly said, when asked about going a little too far inside on Wagner. “That first inning is always a nervous one for us. It’s our worst inning.”

In the fifth, after previously striking out Wagner in the third, Donnelly got the .580-hitting shortstop swinging again for the second out with a runner on third. Entering the regional final, the sophomore had been sat down via strikeout just seven times in 30 games.

“That felt really good,” she said of the fifth inning K. “We knew how good of a hitter she was, and to strike her out in that situation felt really good.”

After leaving three runners on in scoring position over the first four frames, St. Edmond finally got to James in the fifth.

Josie Heesch, an Iowa Central recruit, was walked and junior Cassie Sells was hit by a pitch for the second time. After a lineout, Jaci Stumpf singled to load the bases on a bunt.

Anna Yung followed with a squeeze bunt that brought in Heesch for the first run of the contest. The Lions got a force out at home plate on a fielder’s choice by Maggie Harvey, but the bases were still loaded for Oberg.

Again, the ball failed to leave the infield, but Oberg’s grounder up the middle bounced off James and landed in front of Wagner, who proceeded to throw the ball away trying for the out. Stumpf, Yung and Harvey all came around to score, setting off a wild celebration in the stands and the dugout.

“We felt good getting that first run, but we are never satisfied with just one,” SEHS head coach Paul Hunt said. “We knew with a team like Des Moines Christian, one might not be enough.

“The girls have worked so hard over the past year on the field, in the weight room … they deserve this, and I could not be more proud of each and every one of them.”

St. Edmond will now return to its home complex next week riding a seven-game win streak. The Gaels went undefeated on their own field this year and were 15-1 overall at Rogers Park.

“We are going to state, and it doesn’t matter which (diamond) we’ll be playing on now,” Donnelly said. “This just feels incredible.”