Gaels play for another state berth

OGDEN – St. Edmond and Earlham expect to bring a state tournament atmosphere to their Class 2A regional final here Monday.

The fourth-ranked Gaels and No. 2 Cardinals would know. After all, the trek to Rogers Park has been a familiar one for both programs in recent memory.

Only one team will emerge tonight from this 7 p.m. heavyweight matchup as a state quarterfinalist. North Central Conference champion St. Edmond is 30-5 overall and a winner in 13 of its last 14 contests. Earlham (27-4) didn’t slip up once in the entire month of June during a 22-game unbeaten streak.

The Gaels and Cardinals are no strangers to the big stage, either. St. Edmond was sixth in 2A at the state tournament a year ago, and is attempting to advance for the third time since 2010. Earlham won the 1A title in 2009 and placed second in 2012, qualifying in 2006 and ’11 as well.

”It’s just a tremendous opportunity against what I consider to be an elite program,” SEHS head coach Paul Hunt said. ”We’re really looking forward to it. You know that when you face an opponent the quality of Earlham, you’re going to see an extremely well-coached ballclub that doesn’t beat itself.

”I feel like we’re both among the top squads in 2A, and the rankings reflect that. We just need to worry about playing our best and taking care of the things we can control, and see what happens from there.”

Junior hurler Amanda Lansman (28-5) takes the ball in the pitcher’s circle for the Gaels. Lansman has struck out 227 batters in 198 innings – both among the Top-5 best in 2A.

”Amanda is ready. She’s a gamer,” Hunt said. ”She’s been so reliable for us, and she’s carried a lot of pressure on her shoulders with the number of starts she’s had and innings she’s pitched.

”She really thrives in big games.”

The Cardinals will counter with either senior Kaylie Brindley (16-2) or classmate Abbey Murphy (11-2), who is also the squad’s leading hitter (.483 batting average, 56 RBI, 40 runs scored). Earlham, a community located 30 miles southwest of Des Moines, relies on junior Kristen Weber (.423) and senior Addie Herman (.356) as well.

St. Edmond, meanwhile, has put up gaudy numbers at the plate. All nine Gael regulars bat .350 or better, led by freshman catcher Maggie Harvey (.472, 7 home runs, 48 RBI). Senior Jessica Kuebler (.435), freshman Megan Flattery (.397), Lansman (.380), sophomore Lily Peterson (.379), junior Anna Yung (.374), junior Jaci Stumpf (.367), senior Cassie Sells (.359) and junior Brigid Hanley (.350) anchor the balanced lineup.

St. Edmond has scored 260 runs for a 7.4 per game average. The Gaels have reached double figures in their last four contests, which includes regional routs of Panorama (13-0) and Ogden (10-0).

”We feel like our schedule has prepared us well,” Hunt said. ”Also, having gone through (winning a regional championship and being at state in 2013) helps us with our routine and what to expect. We would be incredibly honored to make it back home (as a state host again). We’re ready.”

The Cardinals advanced by defeating Van Meter (12-2) and IKM-Manning (8-0). Earlham’s losses this season have come against Winterset, Boone, Indianola and Urbandale.