STATE SOFTBALL: Cougars cruise: AGWSR makes most of debut
FORT DODGE – The third time wasn’t the charm for the Jesup softball team.
In 21 innings this year, Class 2A No. 8 AGWSR has allowed just two runs against the 11th ranked J-Hawks, and the 8-2 victory Monday powered the Cougars into the semifinals of the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Rogers Sports Complex.
Seniors Ella Frazier and Marissa Horner each had two hits at the plate, while sophomore Ashley Sicard’s seven strikeouts and one earned run led (28-7) AGWSR to its first-ever state tournament win and gave co-coach Scott O’Brien his 250th career victory.
“Words cannot describe it. It’s a sweet feeling,” O’Brien said. “It’s all good from here. We are in the final four, what else can you say? It would be nice to get one more somewhere and two more would be incredible.”
Frazier added two RBIs and a walk, Horner knocked in one and scored a run and Sicard also had an RBI double and two walks at the plate in the victory that sends the Cougars to a 1 p.m. semifinal Thursday against defending champion and No. 2 Treynor on Diamond 1.
The Cardinals beat a pesky Iowa City Regina squad, 3-2, in 11 innings. The other 2A winners Monday included Ridge View knocking off No. 6 Fort Dodge St. Edmond, 3-1, and No. 3 Durant nipping Lawton-Bronson, 2-0.
The Cougars are guaranteed to play through Friday. Thursday’s semifinal games will determine Friday’s matchups.
“They are the defending state champs. They will be tough,” O’Brien said of Thursday’s matchup with Treynor. “That girl (pitcher Madison Keysor) has more strikeouts than anyone around. It’s the state tournament so you’re going to have to beat someone good to get to where you want to get to.”
Winning is something the Cougars have become accustomed to lately. The third victory this year over Jesup was the team’s ninth straight win. And the North Iowa Cedar League West Division champions’ offense has scored at least eight runs in eight of those nine games while outscoring its opponents 86-8 during that stretch.
“We just did what we do, and that really showed we were here to play and could compete at state,” Frazier said in reference to another strong offensive output. “It was a good feeling to get out in front first. Things are kind of clicking right now.”
The Cougars spotted Sicard a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Frazier led off the bottom of the frame with a double and went to third on a Jesup error. Sicard walked on four pitches with one out and then Hannah Johnson and Marissa Roberts both came through with RBI singles to put the Cougars on the board. Sicard’s pinch runner – Becca Wiarda – came across for a third run following Madison Fryslie’s RBI sacrifice fly to center field.
“We got on them right away,” said Horner. “It’s always good to do that, especially at the state tournament. It gave us some momentum. That was a great feeling to get that early lead.”
The game remained 3-0 until the fifth inning when the Cougars put the victory away with five more runs.
Sicard didn’t get a pitch to hit in her first two at-bats but smoked an RBI double to plate Morgan Rose, who reached on an error to lead off the fifth.
Wiarda, running again for Sicard, took third on a Johnson sacrifice bunt and then Roberts reached on a fielder’s choice.
Horner knocked in Wiarda with an RBI single. She then stole second with Johnson standing on third and a bobbled throw at second with two outs allowed Johnson to step on home plate. The final two runs came across following Frazier’s two-run single.
“Horner has been able to take the ball to right field all year. There is no sense in having her bunt when you have that 25 mile-per-hour jet stream helping the ball out,” O’Brien said. “Everyone in the lineup can hurt you. It’s a dangerous lineup, and you never know who is going to come up big for us. Whoever is up seems to take the job on their shoulders and make something happen.
“Most teams bunt more than we do, but we just have kids in all spots of the lineup hitting the ball hard so there is no sense giving outs away if we don’t have to. We just let them rip it.”
The J-Hawks (28-13) scored their only two runs in 21 innings against AGWSR in the sixth inning. Tessa Clayton began the frame with a triple and then Kelsey Lough’s RBI groundout made it 8-1. Paige Jensen and Ally Flaucher both singled to start another rally and then each moved up a base on an AGWSR error. The second run crossed home when Sicard misplayed a slow-rolling ground ball down the first-base line.
“Being young and having some adrenaline flowing, I think she relaxed a little in that sixth inning,” AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake said of Sicard. “She pitched well though. Getting that early lead in the first inning was super, and the 8-0 lead was obviously huge for us.”
Sicard (28-4) got the win after allowing eight hits and one earned run in the circle. She struck out seven and walked none. Jesup did not get its first hit until the fourth inning. The J-Hawks stranded two runners on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“She said she had big time butterflies, but she just went right through them in the first four innings,” O’Brien said. “They finally got to her a bit the third time around in the third game against us. We weren’t going to change anything though until they made adjustments. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Treynor will present a big challenge for the Cougars in one of the 2A semifinals on Thursday. The defending champions had just four hits against Regina in their 3-2, 11-inning win Monday, but three of those went for extra bases. The Cardinals also committed just one error in the field.
“Having Ashley as our pitcher, we are confident in her,” Horner said. “I couldn’t ask for a better pitcher. As long as we are hitting the ball, I feel confident in us advancing.
“I don’t know a lot about (Treynor), but as long as we keep hitting the ball like we are doing, I think we can handle it.”
Lough (26-11) took the loss in the circle for the J-Hawks. She surrendered nine hits and five earned runs in six innings. She did not strike out a batter but did walk four and hit Olivia Ingledue.
Clayton and Jensen led the Jesup offense with two hits and a run each. Lough and Brianna Weber each had an RBI.
Jesup, the 2013 NICL East Division champions, moves to Wednesday’s consolation round where it will face Iowa City Regina in a 10 a.m. matchup. The other consolation semifinal features Fort Dodge St. Edmond (26-9) against Lawton-Bronson (23-11) at noon. Both games will be played on the Yankee Diamond.
The Cougar defense committed three errors against Jesup but also made a few impressive plays to keep the J-Hawks off the scoreboard. A handful of those came from freshman Abbie Young at second base. “We have a lot of faith in her defense,” O’Brien said. “She is just a freshman, but she played like a senior today. We saw that in the preseason that she covered a lot of ground at second base. She showed today why she is out there.” Sicard said after the game that she expected Lough to throw her plenty of balls out of the strike zone after she went deep on her in the previous meeting. “This win feels great, it feels amazing,” Sicard said. “Whatever you want to say about it, it is great to win that first game at the state tournament.” The previous two games against Jesup resulted in 4-0 and 11-0 victories.