LOGAN, Iowa — Courtney Oviatt knows Logan-Magnolia's routine. Put on eye black together as a team. Go through a pregame chant.
And, often, rally to win softball games.
The Panthers stuck with their dramatic ways Wednesday in their Iowa Class 2-A postseason opener. Despite staring at an early 4-1 hole, they continued to pressure error-prone Missouri Valley before erupting late to celebrate an 11-7 victory.
“We've always been a comeback team throughout the year,” said Oviatt, a senior. “We've had so many games where we start off a little slow. It just takes one good hit or play to get us going.”
The second baseman provided a turning point in the top of the fifth inning by lining a two-run single up the middle to bring her side within 4-3. Lo-Ma sophomore Joeona Healey knotted the game by crushing a home run to left leading off the sixth.
Lo-Ma (18-7) wasn't done there. The Panthers went ahead on a wild pitch before Haleigh Rife and Oviatt brought in another run apiece on a groundout and sacrifice fly, respectively.
Freshman Abby Straight added a three-run round-tripper as part of a four-run seventh to put the contest out of reach. Straight, who has pitched every out for the Panthers this summer, struck out seven Lady Reds.
The win puts Lo-Ma in Friday's 7 p.m. regional semifinal at No. 12 Underwood (23-8). The Eagles won 8-6 in their previous meeting May 23.
“We love playing,” Panthers coach Trent Kuhl said. “Hopefully it doesn't end this week.”
Missouri Valley (16-18) often couldn't get out of its own way Wednesday. The Lady Reds committed five errors — all of which led to runs. Even in their three-run fourth inning, two runners were thrown out at home plate.
“We just couldn't stop the bleeding, as I like to say,” Missouri Valley coach Rick McHugh said. “As soon as something started to go wrong, we couldn't make the play.”
Still, the Lady Reds stole nine bases and remained within striking distance most of the game. They scored twice in the seventh and had two deep flyouts to end the game, stranding runners at second and third.
Hailey Hellstrom, Rebecca Taylo, Emma Town and Bailey Anderson each drove in a run for Missouri Valley. Hellstrom — the only senior in her lineup — departs as a five-year varsity member. She took pictures after the game with Oviatt and Rife, who will be her teammates at College of St. Mary in Omaha next year.
“We just had to keep our heads up,” Hellstrom said, “and we didn't do that.”
Lo-Ma took some time to figure out eighth-grade pitcher Alexis Cook, who didn't allow a hit through three innings. But the Panthers never gave the youngster an easy at-bat, grinding out five walks and making her throw 146 total pitches.
Kuhl, the Lo-Ma coach, said patience has been a key for his hitters all season. He yelled reminders from third base on multiple occasions Wednesday. After all, Lo-Ma was happy to take baserunners however they came.
And once again, the Panthers found a way to get most of them home while winning for the 12th time in the last 13 tries.
“That's kind of how we roll — a little bit of everything,” Oviatt said. “Whatever works, we just put it together.”
Logan-Magnolia (18-7) ......... 000 124 4—11 10 1
Missouri Valley (16-18) ......... 010 301 2—7 9 5
WP: Abby Straight. LP: Alexis Cook.
2B: LM, Kendra Holcomb; MV, Kyra Skelton, Rebecca Taylo. HR: LM, Straight, Joeona Healey.