Comets shot down by surprising Tigers
CONRAD – Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. That was what happened to the BCLUW softball team Wednesday night during its Class 2A Region 6 quarterfinal game with Madrid.
The Comets mustered only seven hits at the plate and did not score on a bases-loaded, one out situation midway through the game during a 2-1, nine-inning defeat to the Tigers.
“You have to take every game like it is your last, and we may not have played that way tonight,” BCLUW coach Casey Moberly said. “The game is seven innings. We have to win every inning. If you win every inning you will win every game.”
The game ended up going nine innings after each team plated a single run in the first but did not score for seven straight frames.
Comet freshman Olivia Callaway nearly ended the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when she drove the ball to deep left-center field. Unfortunately for the Comets, the ball hit off the top of the fence and bounced back into play and Callaway was eventually stranded on second base after a double.
Moberly thought the ball was gone. So did many fans in attendance. So did Madrid coach Whitney Boaz.
“It would have been game over,” Boaz said. “We play in a really good conference so we see knockers all the time. To see that happen, it would have been hard to lose like that. When it came in, it gave us a second chance.”
The Tigers took advantage of that chance – and BCLUW’s second error of the game – in the ninth inning. Naomi Dalton reached base on the error and then took second on Lynn Rigby’s sacrifice bunt. Chelsea Hinkel – who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts coming into the at-bat – then laced the game-winning hit to right field.
“I don’t know if we are peaking at the right time or what,” Boaz said. “My kids had a really good practice the day before last, and we just really talked about routine plays and putting the bat on the ball and making the other team make mistakes. That’s kind of what we did in that last inning.”
BCLUW went down in order in its half of the ninth inning. The Comets were set down in order in five of the nine innings and Madrid starter Sarah Kleinwort even had a few frames where she didn’t throw more than five or six pitches.
“It was a pitcher we probably should have handled and we just didn’t,” Moberly said. “We weren’t real sharp at the plate. She retired our first two hitters in the third with one pitch. I made the next hitter take a pitch because I wasn’t going to go down in three pitches, but it ended up being a four-pitch inning. That was good execution on their part.”
Madrid (17-14) will play Alburnett (22-16) in Conrad in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday. Alburnett beat Gladbrook-Reinbeck 8-0 in the other quarterfinal.
The Tigers scored first in the game after Taylor Bell reached on an error to lead off the game. The speedy Bell took second on a sacrifice bunt and then went to third after getting caught in a rundown. She scored on the next play after a sacrifice fly to center by Kat Ackerson.
Makayla Van Cleave got things going for the Comets in the bottom half of the first when she reached on an infield single. She went all the way around the bases on Sarah McCoy’s run-scoring hit. Madrid made the throw home to get Van Cleave but the ball got away from Tiger catcher Naomi Dalton.
Neither team scored again until Madrid’s game-winner in the ninth.
The Comets had a couple of chances before that though. The big opportunity came in the second inning when BCLUW (21-11) loaded the bases with one out following singles by Callaway, Nicolette Simpson and Mallory Vawter. Moberly called for a bunt from Kendall Scurr but the ball went straight up in the air and resulted in a 2-5 double play that ended the threat.
“I would make the same call and ask them to do the same situation if it happened again,” Moberly said. “But that is something that I am going to have to think about. We just didn’t get it done and they did.”
Boaz didn’t think the inning would end the way that it did, but she certainly knew it gave her team momentum.
“That was huge,” Boaz said. “That really gave us a lot more confidence. You could see us deflate a bit when they loaded the bases. I even thought to myself that I was going to have to give up a run to get an out. We got the pop up and made the play, and it just rocketed us from there.”
The Comets never got past second after the second inning as Kleinwort (12-10) kept the BCLUW hitters off balance. She earned the win after allowing seven hits and one earned run in nine innings. She also struck out three and walked one.
Simpson (11-4) was just as good in the circle for the Comets. Neither of the two runs she allowed were earned as she surrendered five hits in nine innings. She fanned seven and walked one in the loss.
“She threw a heck of a game,” Moberly said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything else from that kid. She pitched her heart out. We just needed to be more disciplined at the plate. Our pitch selection wasn’t what I would have hoped for and (Madrid) took advantage of the couple of mistakes we did make.”
Callaway and Vawter each had two hits at the plate to lead BCLUW. Simpson, McCoy and Van Cleave had the other three hits. Van Cleave had the only run and McCoy was credited with the lone RBI. … The win by Madrid was its fourth straight. BCLUW had won three of four heading into the game. … Bell came into the game hitting .448 for Madrid. She has scored 32 runs this year and is now 55 of 56 in stolen base attempts. … The Comets lose three seniors to graduation – McCoy, Van Cleave and Jessica deNeui. McCoy hit just under .400 this year with three homers and 25 RBIs.