MONTICELLO | Hanover Central players silently filed out of dugout, fighting back their tears.
Leo eliminated the Wildcats 3-0 on Saturday in the second semifinal at the Twin Lakes Semistate. For a second straight year, Hanover (29-5) had been knocking on the door of a coveted state championship only to fall short.
“We gotta kick the door down,” said Hanover coach Larry McMillen, whose team also lost in last year's semifinals. “We could’ve. We should’ve, but we did not. You can do the woulda,’ shoulda,’ coulda’ all day long.”
Hanover managed just four hits off Leo pitcher Lindsey Bowers and ran itself out of the inning in the third.
“She threw a lot of off-speed stuff, and we didn’t handle it well,” McMillen said. “We popped out a lot.”
Leo (25-6) scored the only run it would need in the top of the third when Alexa Allen doubled, stole third base and then home after Morgan Poeppel walked and got in rundown between first and second.
Hanover argued to no avail that Ashley Yoways was in the circle when Poeppel stopped while rounding first, which would’ve negated the play.
Hanover rallied in its half of the third when Caitlyn Rebenack singled to left with one out. Kori Davis followed with a double, but Rebenack was cut down at home and Davis was tagged out at third after the play at home to end both the inning and threat.
Rebenack was sent home when the relay throw got away, but Bowers fielded the ball near the mound and made a perfect peg to home.
“The deflection went straight to the pitcher,” McMillen said.
Hanover could’ve had runners on second and third with one out and Yoways at the plate.
“Mistakes happen,” Yoways said. “I made one.”
Leo added two insurance runs in the fifth on two hits, and Hanover never threatened the rest of the way.
“We didn’t do anything to win the game,” McMillen said.
Yoways said it was more what they didn’t do at the plate than anything.
“It was just us,” she said.
Hanover had just one hit over the final three innings.
“We were trying to win,” said Rebenack, who added they weren’t getting on top of the ball. “We all thought we could come back from that (third inning). I think everyone was on their front foot.”
Yoways, an Iowa recruit, allowed the three runs on just four hits and struck out 11.
“I really think we could’ve went all the way, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” Yoways said. "It was awesome. It was a good year.”
McMillen was still proud of the school-record 29 wins plus conference and regional titles.
“We got beat by a better team today,” he said. “We could play them 10 times, and we’d probably beat them seven out of 10 times.”