LE GRAND - South Tama County's softball team simply wouldn't end its 2013 season without a fight and it gave rival East Marshall everything it had Friday night.
In a wild seven-inning game, the Lady Trojans fell behind early but their relentless attitude scared the Mustangs. However, the Mustangs' powerful batting was too much to overcome as they beat South Tama 15-10 in the Class 3A Region 7 semifinal.
"Defensively, offensively and pitching wise, we gave effort," STC head coach Chelsea Ahrens said. "It wasn't like we didn't play hard. We might have had only one or two errors. We played like we're capable of playing. (East Marshall) just hit the ball like they're capable of hitting the ball."
South Tama County junior Samantha Holtz pitched 3 and two-thirds innings Friday night.
The Lady Trojans (12-21) mustered 10 runs against an East Marshall (27-5) team that hadn't allowed more than seven runs to an opponent all season. They accomplished that feat despite not scoring in three innings Friday night.
"If you would've told me we'd score 10 runs against East Marshall, I would have said, 'you're crazy,'" Ahrens said. "I don't know if we've ever scored 10 runs against them. That's the type of team we are. We don't give up. Even though we didn't score in that seventh inning, we put runners on or scored in almost every inning."
The story of the night was East Marshall's home runs. The Mustangs cranked three over the fence, totaling 10 RBIs on the night. Mustangs' senior Katie Roseland hit two home runs and sophomore Taylor Fricke hit the other bomb.
"We just couldn't out hit them," Ahrens said. "We hit the ball, that's for sure. Ten runs would probably win most games, but not against East Marshall."
South Tama was hoping to keep the game close after its first two contests against East Marshall ended 4-3 and 6-4. However, the Mustangs jumped out to a quick lead over STC.
After two of the first three East Marshall batters reached base, Fricke bombed a pitch over the left field fence. Her home run gave East Marshall a quick 3-0 lead as the Lady Trojans were able to get two outs during the next three batters.
South Tama responded with a run in the second inning to start its fight back against its rival. After a pair of strikeouts to start the top of the second inning, freshman Dani Stubbs reached base on a single and then to second base on the same hit after an EM throwing error. Junior Madison Baack moved Stubbs to third on a single, before junior Trisha Walz hit an RBI single. Walz's hit scored Stubbs and got the Lady Trojans on the scoreboard.
"Trisha came through with our first RBI," Ahrens said. "She's our eighth batter and hasn't been hitting that well this year. She did a nice job offensively."
East Marshall added four more runs in the second inning and appeared to take control of the contest. The first run scored on a bases-loaded walk. Then the Mustangs hit a double to left-center field that turned into a three-run triple. Their 7-1 lead had the Lady Trojans worried.
"Even when they got up 7-1, you could tell we were deflated when we came back to the dugout," Ahrens said. "We huddled up and talked about how it's not over yet. It's that never say die attitude and we've had that all year."
Down 7-1, South Tama's offense once again responded as the top of its lineup started the inning at the plate. Senior Riley Craun began the inning with a single before advancing to second base on a passed ball. Junior Tori Appelgate earned a walk after Craun. Senior Jade Rohach followed her with an RBI double, scoring Craun.
Juniors Samantha Holtz and Hailee Weiss also hit RBI singles to score Appelgate and Rohach. Stubbs came up next and loaded the bases with another single on an EM error. However, STC hit two fielder's choice ground balls that allowed EM to tag home plate for two outs before the final batter struck out, keeping EM's lead at 7-4.
"We hit the ball hard tonight," Ahrens said. "Unfortunately (East Marshall) was able to get out of that one inning where we had bases loaded and no outs. We got one and then they got the outs. Those were hard hit balls and they made plays. What can you ask for? Just to hit the ball hard and we did."
Just when STC thought it had a chance to catch up, the Mustangs bombed another home run in the bottom of the third inning. They loaded the bases with three singles, two of which were bunts, before Roseland cranked a grand slam deep over the center field fence. The home run came with two outs already registered in the inning. The third came on the next at-bat, but the Mustangs already increased their lead to 11-4.
The fourth inning was nearly dj vu for the Lady Trojans' offense. The top of the lineup started the inning once again. Appelgate, Rohach, Holtz and Weiss all reached base on singles as the Mustangs committed an error to help STC.
Holtz and Weiss hit RBI singles to score Appelgate and Rohach. After the second STC out of the inning, Baack blasted a two-run double, scoring Naomi Hoskey (courtesy runner for Holtz) and Weiss and helping South Tama cut the gap to 11-8.
"We were able to say we're not giving up and we're not going home," Ahrens said. "You could tell, because we stepped up in that batter's box, put the ball in play and good things happen when we do that. We mentally got tough when we needed to."
The next two half innings were quiet as both teams went three-and-out at the plate. Then the top of East Marshall's lineup came up to bat in the fourth inning. With two runners on base and Roseland next up to bat, Ahrens brought in freshman Kallie Hala to pitch, hoping to change up their luck against the star Mustang.
"I tried to put a new pitcher in, because that timing has worked the last four or five games for us," Ahrens said. "She's a good hitter. She waited on it and smoked it."
South Tama's pitching change brought no such luck. After watching the first strike pass by, Roseland swung on the second pitch and cranked it over the center field fence once again. Her three-run blast gave East Marshall an insurmountable lead of 14-8.
"I knew Roseland was coming up," Ahrens said. "She had already smoked a home run. I said let's try this, because she had been smoking the ball. It didn't work out for us, but at least we tried something."
The Lady Trojans did add two runs in the sixth inning as they tried to close the gap. Rohach, who finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs, led off with a double. Holtz followed her with an RBI single. Hoskey ran for Holtz and advanced to second with as Weiss was walked and then to third on Stubbs' ground ball out. Baack recorded another RBI with her sacrifice fly to score Hoskey.
East Marshall scored its final run during the sixth inning. South Tama had one last chance to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh, but STC went three-and-out with a pair of strike outs and a pop fly.
"I'm just really proud of them for how well they played," Ahrens said. "During the last three weeks of our season, even though our record may not indicate it, we've been playing really good ball. We can compete with anybody and we showed it tonight."