No. 10 AGWSR will try not to lament season’s first loss

CONRAD – With a hit batsman here and a dropped pop-up there, the AGWSR softball team found out just how fine the line between winning and losing can be.

Class 2A No. 10-ranked AGWSR came within those two miscues of collecting their third win over another ranked set of Cougars, falling 2-1 to 2A No. 4 Sumner-Fredericksburg Friday in BCLUW’s David Lee Classic.

A year after posting a 26-9 record and falling in the regional semifinals – on this same diamond, ironically – AGWSR came out of the gates with a 7-0 start and aspirations of going well beyond last year’s postseason run. Victories over two top-10 ranked 3A teams verified the dreams have potential to become reality, but co-coach Scott O’Brien is aware that nobody else is going to clear the path for that to happen.

His team has to do it for itself.

The only free pass issued by AGWSR hurler Ashley Sicard was a one-out pitch that plunked McKenzie Schmitt in the top of the second inning. One groundout later, and Kally Frisch got a single through the middle that plated Sumner-Fredericksburg’s tying run.

A two-out dropped infield fly by shortstop Kristen Zacharias was followed by back-to-back hits as Sumner-Fredericksburg (8-1) took the lead for good in the fifth.

“I really don’t think it’ll haunt us,” O’Brien said. “The only way it’ll haunt us is if we don’t use it as a learning experience. This is a team that came close last year and had a real good record. Now we’re trying to teach them to grow into that next step where you learn to compete and win games like this one.”

Sumner-Fredericksburg was fresh off its first loss of the season, losing 7-1 to Janesville as a result of five unearned runs allowed. The Cougars shored up their defense and played error-free behind Kelsey Nilges to capture their first win over a ranked team this season.

AGWSR’s road gets no easier this weekend, either, as the Cougars take on 4A Charles City and 5A Marshalltown in today’s tournament slate.

“I think we’re a pretty tough team and we’ll be able to handle it pretty well,” Zacharias said. “I think we’ll bounce back. This one does hurt maybe partially because I feel like my error, the only one, kind of caused that one run.”

Zacharias also helped AGWSR take the lead initially. Ella Frazier belted a double to lead off the bottom of the first, and Zacharias’ long at-bat finally resulted in a groundout that moved Frazier’s courtesy runner Morgan Kappel to third.

The ensuing batter, Morgan Rose, lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that plated Kappel and gave AGWSR the early edge.

But the Cougars mananged only four more hits and five total baserunners the rest of the way, just one of which got as far as third base. AGWSR’s station-to-station ways were not as effective without the key hits as Nilges shut them down.

“We knew she’s good, she’s solid, but the way we came out and swung the bats in the first inning I thought we were going to get a few more,” O’Brien said. “Not a lot of solid contact but that’s the beauty of a pitcher like that who can keep you off-balance a little bit.”

Nilges surrendered five hits, struck out one and did not walk a batter.

Sicard finished with nine strikeouts and no walks but one hit batter, and the offense she’s enjoyed to this point was not there to back her performance. AGWSR got singles from Hannah Johnson and Megan Marlette in the second, but neither scored.

Zacharias added a bunt single in the third, and Rose reached with a one-out single in the sixth but was forced out at second.

“We were just hitting some weak balls at first and just too many pop-ups,” said Zacharias. “We’re very capable of getting four runs a night, if not more.”

Kaylyn Brandt and Maya Marshall, the bookends of the S-F batting order, both had two hits. It was Brandt’s RBI double in the fifth that plated Tisue as the eventual game-winning run.

“The moment wasn’t too big for us so we were ready for it, but we just didn’t execute when we had the chance to make the plays,” O’Brien said. “We had one error the whole game but it was a huge one at the wrong time. It kept the door open and they’re a good team, they took advantage of it.

“We got enough out of (Sicard) to win the game today, we just need to do the other parts of the game and execute those things that it takes to win. You’d love to go undefeated but you don’t expect to. I guess we’ll find out a lot (about ourselves) tomorrow, we’ve got two tough teams.”

AGWSR meets Charles City at 2:45 p.m. and Marshalltown at 4:30 p.m., both games on the recreation diamond in Conrad.

BCLUW 8, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 0

Nicolette Simpson struck out 13 and walked only one as the Class 2A No. 8 BCLUW softball team started off its David Lee Classic with an 8-0 win over Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

The contest counted toward NICL West Division play as a result of their regularly scheduled meeting earlier in the week getting rained out.

The Comets (5-2, 3-1) erupted with a six-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth, getting to Gladbrook-Reinbeck hurler Taylor Street for six hits and putting enough pressure on the defense to force a pair of errors.

Back-to-back singles by Nicole Montgomery and Jessica deNeui started it, and Mallory Vawter’s squeeze bunt scored two runs after the throw home went high. Makayla Van Cleave’s bunt drove in Vawter, and Sara Sharp dribbled a run-scoring single through the middle.

Sarah McCoy and Kayla Benjamin came up with back-to-back hits, and Olivia Callaway capped the big inning with a two-run double to the fence in left.

Benjamin also drove in BCLUW’s first run with a two-out bloop single in the fourth, and Van Cleave followed Vawter’s sixth-inning double with a single of her own to plate the Comets’ final tally.

BCLUW totaled 10 hits to G-R’s three. Emily Snider reached on an infield hit for the Rebels (1-6, 0-3) and took second on a passed ball, the only G-R baserunner to advance that far. Taylor Flamme and Nicole Adair also singled.

The Rebels meet Marshalltown at 1 p.m. and 2A No. 4 Sumner-Fredericksburg at 2:45 p.m. in today’s six-game schedule in Conrad. The host Comets face Sumner-Fredericksburg at 1 p.m. and Charles City at 4:30 p.m.