It can be the best of times and the worst of times, all within a 24-hour period, for the South Tama County softball team.
For head coach Chelsea Ahrens, it's been hard to tell which night was the best and which was the worst, even though one was a win and the other was a loss.
On Wednesday, the Lady Trojans picked up a much-needed win over a struggling Grinnell squad. However, they needed extra innings to win a game that saw defensive errors nearly cost the Lady Trojans a victory.
The Lady Trojans came back with a home contest against AGWSR, who won the North Iowa Cedar League West Division. They played much better than the night before, but a conference loss at home still stings.
"We have the potential to play with a good team like that and I've known that," Ahrens said after Thursday night's loss. "It's nothing new. It just signifies the things we need to get better on pitching and defense which we've dealt with all year. The capabilities of our team are high. We can play with a team like this."
On Thursday, the Lady Trojans (18-8, 4-7) hung tough against the NICL champions, but eventually fell 7-2 to AGWSR (19-6, 13-1).
"We never gave up," Ahrens said. "Offensively, we never gave up and we kept putting runners on base in every inning. We put the pressure on them for sure. It was just our pitching and our defense that hurt us tonight. Those have been our struggles all year. The walks and the errors allowed them to take some extra bases and score some extra runs they shouldn't have had."
The Cougars struck first in the top of the first inning, but the Lady Trojans answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Junior Tori Appelgate hit a single before junior Samantha Holtz drove her in with an RBI double.
AGWSR added one run in the third and fifth innings. However, the Lady Trojans held tough with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to keep the game close at 3-2. Freshman Belle Tyynismaa led off the inning with a single. Appelgate hit her home as she reached first on an error.
"I'm not worried about our hitting," Ahrens said. "We're going to put the ball in play. This was a really great pitcher we saw tonight and we struck out maybe three or four times. We put the ball in play. That's all I ask for hit the ball hard on the ground somewhere and make them make plays, and that's what we did. That's all you can ask for."
The Cougars took control of the game late as they added two runs in each the sixth and seventh innings. One of those was a solo home run to start the sixth inning. Two other runs came from errors that allowed the eventual scoring runner to reach first.
South Tama loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning with its No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters. However, the next two batters hit a pop fly and grounded out to end the game.
"This softball conference is tough," Ahrens said. "It's good for us. This is one of the best conferences. We've got three ranked teams. What we're hoping for is to finish fourth and we still have a shot at that. If we can play these teams tough, which we have, and not get blown out, which we haven't, we can finish fourth. I think we can do it."
Thursday's game was another example of a game where the Lady Trojans played well against a ranked team, but fell short late. Ahrens knows her team is making strides, but unfortunately it isn't showing up in the win column.
"I think they know that," Ahrens said. "We have almost everybody back from last year, except for Jenn and Sarah, and Sam's done a nice job of stepping into that role. I think they have the confidence and know they can do better. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to finish .500. Maybe it's something we're not going to get to, but I still think we get 13 or 14 wins. It's a matter of whether we want to or not."
On Wednesday, South Tama battled its rival Grinnell on the road and escaped with an extra innings victory, despite many errors. South Tama won the game 13-10 in eight innings.
"It was a terrible win," Ahrens said. "You have those moral victories where you lose by one to a good team and then you win 13-10 when you just played awful."
The Lady Trojans committed 10 errors in the win. They also walked six batters, which also helped to allowing the Tigers (2-17) hang around and nearly win the game.
"They know what they have to fix and I think they're capable of it," Ahrens said. "We'll turn this around this last week. I know we will."
Tyynismaa walked leading off the eighth and took second on a sacrifice bunt, but was still there after the second out. Senior Jade Rohach drove her in with a single, Holtz plated Rohach with a double, and back-to-back singles by junior Hailee Weiss and freshman Dani Stubbs drove courtesy runner sophomore Naomi Hoskey.
Rohach and Holtz both finished with four RBIs. Rohach, Stubbs and Weiss each had three hits, Holtz, Tori Appelgate and Riley Craun had two hits apiece, and Trisha Walz added a double.
"We kept putting runs together last night," Ahrens said. "We keep putting people on and good things will happen when you put runners on base."
South Tama will be hoping to add two NICL wins tonight at home against West Marshall. STC hosts the visiting Trojans in a varsity doubleheader. Then STC will host Montezuma on Friday for Senior Night.
"It's that we believe in each other," Ahrens said of a way her team can turn the season around. "Having a little bit of success last year with 10 wins. Now we've come back and we're competing with ranked teams. We feel like we can beat anybody. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We play East Marshall and we can beat them. Then Ackley comes into our place and we play with them. It's just a matter of whether we're going to execute and make things happen."