Cougar bats hoping to stay hot against defending champs

FORT DODGE – If the AGWSR softball team hopes to stay red-hot at the plate, the Class 2A No. 8 Cougars will have to do so against a pitcher who ranks second in 2A with 297 strikeouts.

Madison Keysor led Treynor to the 2012 title and looks to move one step closer to that point Thursday when the defending champion Cardinals take on the Cougars on Diamond 1 at 1 p.m. at the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Rogers Sports Complex.

“They are the defending state champs. They will be tough,” AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien. “That girl (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.”

Both teams will come into the 2A semifinals on long winning streaks. The Cougars have won eight straight and are 12-1 in their last 13, while second-ranked Treynor will be looking for its eighth straight victory today. The Cardinals (28-5) already have two nine-game win streaks this season.

Cougar sophomore Ashley Sicard is a big reason why AGWSR is where it is at, but the bats haven’t disappointed lately either. In the current eight-game win streak, the Cougars have not scored less than eight runs. And the eight runs they scored in the opening round against No. 11 Jesup were the fewest they had during that stretch.

“Everyone in the lineup can hurt you,” said O’Brien, who picked up his 250th victory Monday in the win over Jesup. “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.”

The biggest contributors at the plate besides Sicard most recently have been seniors Ella Frazier and Marissa Horner. Both had two hits against Jesup. Frazier added two RBIs, while Horner knocked in one and scored a run.

Keysor will try to do whatever she can to contain the red-hot Cougar offense though. The Cardinal senior is 26-3 this year with more than 300 strikeouts. She also has an earned run average of 0.94.

Keysor fanned 33 batters during last year’s three-game run to the state championship. Sicard hopes to add a state title to her pitching resume before she graduates.

The Cougar sophomore stacks up well against anyone in the circle, entering the game at 28-4 with 231 strikeouts and 34 walks in 205 innings pitched. She fanned seven and walked none in the first-round game against Jesup, the third victory over the J-Hawks this season. Her season ERA is 0.72.

“Having Ashley as our pitcher, we are confident in her,” said Horner, one of five seniors on this year’s Cougar roster. “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.”

Lexis Rogers (.387 and 29 runs) and Kate Killinger (.375 with 29 RBIs) lead the Cardinals on offense. Frazier (.388 with two home runs and 24 RBIs) and Sicard (.346 with six homers and 26 RBIs) headline the Cougar attack.

Treynor needed 11 innings and 166 pitches from Keysor to beat 2011 champion Iowa City Regina (20-20) on Monday. The Cardinals won 3-2 and Keysor struck out nine, walked two and surrendered nine hits. Treynor only had four hits – three went for extra bases – at the plate but took advantage of Regina’s three errors.

AGWSR scored three in the first and five more in the fifth to beat Jesup 8-2. The Cougars had nine hits in their first-ever state softball tournament win.

The other Class 2A semifinal game will pit No. 3 Durant (33-8) against unranked Ridge View (31-11). That game will start at 1:30 p.m. on Diamond 2.

The two semifinal losers will play for third place at 11:30 a.m. Friday on Diamond 2, while the winners will face off in the title game at 12:15 p.m. on Diamond 1.

Jesup came back to beat Regina 2-0 in its first consolation game and then finished in fifth after beating Fort Dodge St. Edmond, 4-3. Regina took seventh after a 5-2 victory over Lawton-Bronson.