Now that fifth-ranked Estherville Lincoln Central has made it through the state softball quarterfinals, the Midgets are assured of finishing better than their fifth-place finish a year ago.
But the road doesn't get any easier as ELC (28-6) plays top-ranked Solon (38-6) in a Class 3A semifinal at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The Spartans, who finished eighth in Class 3A a year ago, are the top-hitting team in Class 3A this season with a .421 average. Two players bat over .500 and four others bat over .400.
ELC’s Emily Kirchner slides safelty into second base against East Marshall in Monday’s Class 3A State Softball Quarterfinal.
Junior Kara Misel leads the offense in hits (68), doubles (160), home runs (13) and RBIs (52).
Freshman Taylor Nearad is second with a .523 average followed by senior Mel Breza (.488), senior Emily Brnasky (.443), sophomore Rylee Smith (.417) and junior Alyssa Rickels (.415).
Solon's tournament run began with a 7-6 nine-inning victory over Mount Vernon with the Spartans outscoring their opponent 3-2 in the ninth to pull out the win.
The road became easier after that with an 11-1, fiving inning victory over Northeast, Goose Lake and a 10-0, five-inning victory over Independence.
Solon opened tournament play with an 8-2 victory over Waukon on Monday as the Spartans took advantage of six opponent errors.
Defensively, senior pitcher Arran Weeces leads the Spartans. She has pitched 140 2/3 innings with an 18-2 record and a 1.05 earned run average. She has 215 strikeouts compared to 79 walks. Opponents are batting .143 against Weeces.
She had seven strikeouts and no walks against Waukon while giving up four hits.
Solon opened the season with 12 straight wins before losing 11-4 to Des Moines East. Other losses include 3-0 to Pleasant Valley, 4-3 to West Des Moines Valley, 9-3 to Clear Creek-Amana, 11-4 to Clear Creek-Amana and 3-2 to Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Clear Creek-Amana is ranked first in Class 4A. All the other teams are ranked in the top 10 in Class 5A.
Other 3A semifinalists
Thursday's other semifinal game features a rematch between No. 3 Bondurant-Farrar (38-6) and No. 9 Ballard (33-9). Bondurant-Farrar won the first meeting between the two teams, 1-0, on June 25.
In Tuesday's other 3A quarterfinals, Bondurant-Farrar advanced with an 8-1 over unranked Davenport Assumption and Ballard came up with a mini-upset, 5-4, over No. 4 Mid-Prairie.