South Tama's softball squad began the week with a pair of conference games on the road that ended in nearly opposite manners.
The Lady Trojans once again stuck a dagger through the heart of the Grundy Center team. They've now done it twice this season. On Monday, they rallied from a 2-run deficit to win by four runs. Less than 24 hours later, the Lady Trojans traveled to BCLUW and lost a tough contest to the ranked Comets squad.
"I thought we played better than last night," STC coach Chelsea Ahrens said Tuesday. "This wasn't a win, but it felt good because we were able to hang with a ranked team. I think we can take away a moral victory from this game. Even though we won last night, we didn't play that well. Tonight, we lost but we played decent enough. I'd rather have it be closer, but (BCLUW) earned its run instead of us giving them runs."
South Tama head softball coach Chelsea Ahrens, left, shares a laugh and high-five with junior pitcher Samantha Holtz after the Trojans come-from-behind victory Monday. Also pictured is senior Riley Craun, center, and freshman Madie Bacon. South Tama beat Grundy Center 12-8.
On Tuesday, South Tama battled a BCLUW team that it lost to 11-0 in five innings on June 3. In that North Iowa Cedar League West Division contest, BCLUW scored nine runs during the first two innings, taking control of the game early on three STC defensive errors.
This week's game was a much closer contest, but STC (6-11) lost 6-1. BCLUW (14-5) did jump out to a 6-0 lead after five innings, but there was no run-rule or shutout. The Comets broke the scoreless tie with one run in the second inning off of two hits and a walk. They added two more runs in the inning when STC committed its only error of the game.
BCLUW's final three runs were scored off of home runs. In the third inning, BCLUW's Sarah McCoy capped off her 3-for-3 night with a solo home run. Jessica deNeui had a two-run home in the fifth inning, giving BCLUW a 6-0 lead.
"Sam (Holtz) only had two walks. She threw 79 pitches and 58 for strikes. We've talked about the struggles of giving up free bases and we didn't do that much tonight. It should have ended up 4-1, because they scored two runs on our one error. It was a much better played ballgame than the first time we played them. We had a lot of errors in the first game. I think our defense and pitching were the difference tonight.
"We are averaging four to six errors per game and four to five walks per game," she said. "We're not going to win ballgames if we do that. Bringing those both down to two errors and two walks a game is something I can live with as a coach. That's going to keep us in ballgames."
South Tama scored its only run of the game in the sixth inning. Junior Tori Appelgate led off with a single. Senior Jade Rohach followed her with an RBI single, scoring Appelgate and avoiding a possible shutout loss.
STC had chances to score earlier in the game but were unable to push runs across. In the fourth inning, Rohach led off with a single and junior Samantha Holtz moved Rohach over with a single. Rohach even took third on Holtz's single.
Junior Hailee Weiss came up to the plate next. She hit a groundball to the BCLUW third baseman, who faked a throw to first base and turned around to tag out Rohach, who was caught off base. Rohach's coach came to her defense after the game.
"I talked to Jade about that," Ahrens said. "I said, 'There's nothing you can do about that. I thought she was throwing to first, too.' That's an eighth grader over there at third base. With a situation like that, where they are leading 4-0, I wouldn't have ever thought she would do a fake to get our fastest girl out. There's nothing she can do about that.
"We had our chances," she added. "It wasn't like it was a no-hitter. We did get a run late and several good hits. Maddie Baack had two hits and she has hardly played softball in the last 10 days. Jade, Sam and Tori all got hits, too. Our hitters are putting the ball in play."
The Lady Trojans bats were in action on Monday, especially late in the game. They trailed Grundy Center 8-6 after the sixth inning and then the magic started once again. The Lady Trojans scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh at their home contest against the Spartans to win 7-6.
"I don't know what it is about them, but I just think we know that we should be able to beat them," Ahrens said. "We were pretty down on ourselves when we got behind, but we had that never say die attitude. We know we can compete with them and beat them, so it's that feeling of when's it going to happen? We know it will happen, but just when? I wish we had it with more teams. For them, it's been an interesting last couple of years."
On Monday, South Tama had two freshmen and a junior, who hadn't played a game in nine days, up to the plate to start the seventh inning. Freshman Madie Bacon began by earning a walk. Then freshman Kallie Hala moved her to second with a single. Junior Madison Baack loaded the bases with a walk. Senior Riley Craun, STC's next batter, broke the Spartans' spirit with a two-run double to left-centerfield.
Then the Lady Trojans broke the game wide open. Craun, Appelgate, Rohach and Holtz all scored runs. They kept the bases loaded as they batted around during the inning. BCLUW walked four batters and committed two errors in the final inning, giving the Lady Trojans opportune moments that they capitalized upon Monday.
"You could tell (Grundy Center) was really down after Riley's hit" Ahrens said. "It's somebody stepping up and making something happen. It started with Madie Bacon getting on. Then Kallie gets on. They were patient. They were being very selective. We've been good hitters all year, with the exception of the Benton game where we struck out 10 times. Otherwise, we've struck out less than five times a game. We are going to put the ball in play."
South Tama started the game with three runs in the first inning. STC added two more in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead. Then BCLUW scored four runs in each of the next two innings as it took control of the game with an 8-5 advantage. STC helped BCLUW with five walks, one error and one hit batter during those innings.
"She walked in two runs and that's something she struggled with last week," Ahrens said of Hala, who started the game on the mound and walked several batters. Sam came in and she struggled a bit finding the strike zone. If we're going to win ballgames, we have to throw strikes and they know that. It's just a matter of getting back to fundamentals.
"That can also wear a defense out by sitting there for walk after walk," she said. "Then the defense is flat and you can make an error, which is what happened to Grundy Center. It's better for your defense if you throw strikes."
South Tama played at East Marshall on Wednesday and then hosted the Mustangs on Thursday. STC will play in the Marshalltown Tournament on Friday and Saturday.