STATE SOFTBALL: AGWSR’s state of heartbreak
FORT DODGE – AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake held her hat in her hand, so to speak, following the game.
“This one is on me.”
With the bases loaded and a favorable 3-0 count to Morgan Rose, Drake called for a suicide squeeze bunt. Second-ranked Treynor was ready, made the play at home, and then starting pitcher Madison Keysor retired the next batter on a groundout to get out of the third-inning pickle.
That bases-loaded opportunity ended up being No. 8 AGWSR’s best chance to score as the defending champion Treynor Cardinals tallied the game’s only run in the fourth and advanced to its second straight title game with a 1-0 victory during a Class 2A semifinal at the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Rogers Sports Complex.
“This one is mine. I shouldn’t have done the suicide squeeze,” Drake said. “We had our chances to score, but with a 3-0 count, I shouldn’t have called that. The runner was supposed to be running, but I don’t think she got as good of a jump as she wanted.
“(Treynor) didn’t seem like they were covering bunts very well. The runner didn’t break like she should have but that’s on me.”
Keysor, who struck out five in the circle, and the Cardinals (30-5) will play No. 3 Durant (34-8) in today’s 12:15 p.m. championship game. The Cougars (28-8) move to the third-place game where they will take on unranked Ridge View (31-12) at 11:30 a.m. The Raptors lost 6-0 to Durant in the other semifinal.
“My hats off to Treynor,” AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien said. “They are a solid team. You have to make things happen if you want to beat them, and we were not able to do that today.
“They are the defending state champs for a reason. They bent but didn’t break.”
Treynor reaches the title game despite scoring just four runs in its 17 innings and two games at state. The Cardinals haven’t blown anyone away with their offensive numbers, but the defending champions are seasoned and know how to come up with big hits when it matters most.
“We have quite a few seniors and they don’t get rattled in those situations,” Treynor coach JoEllen Travis said. “We just battle and that seems to be working for us. I did think we would need to score more runs today to win. We just need to play our game and execute when we have opportunities to score. We didn’t execute that well today.”
Both teams stranded eight runners on base. And each squad had trouble taking advantage of the opportunities they did have.
Treynor left the bases loaded in the first inning. The first two runners reached on an error and a walk and then a bunt single by Lexi Killinger loaded them with just one out.
Cougar sophomore hurler Ashley Sicard eventually got out of the jam with a strikeout and a lineout. Sicard fanned eight Cardinals in the game but dropped to 28-5 after the loss.
“We showed a lot of our character in the first inning and Ashley showed what she is made of in that inning,” O’Brien said. “She was not sharp today even though the stats may say otherwise. She was not as sharp as she has been in the past, but that shows the guts she has to come up with an effort like that when she is not at her best.”
The Cougars did not get their first hit until the third inning. Three straight singles – including two bunts – from Kristen Zacharias, Ella Frazier and Olivia Ingledue loaded the bases with one out. Rose’s bunt on a 3-0 count was fielded and tossed home for the second out and Keysor ended the threat when she got Sicard to ground out to Killinger at shortstop.
“We had opportunities,” Drake said. “We just didn’t get the hits when we needed them. That would have been a much different ballgame if we scored in the third to make it 1-1.”
The Cougars put two more runners on with one out in the fourth but Keysor again came up big with a strikeout and a groundout. The Cardinal senior hurler allowed seven hits in the game, but Travis is looking forward to seeing more.
“I still don’t think she’s pitching her best,” Travis said. “I thought she pitched well today, it was a gutsy performance. It was mental toughness. She showed a lot of character and most of the time the defense was behind her.”
Keysor slowed down a Cougars’ offense that had scored no fewer than eight runs during an eight-game win streak – which was snapped – while also helping the Cardinals extend their winning ways to eight straight. Treynor will try to win nine in a row for a third time this year against Durant in today’s championship game.
“She threw a curveball outside,” Drake said of Keysor. “I thought they brought some pitches inside that weren’t strikes. He was giving her the calls on the inside even when the catcher set up outside.”
AGWSR senior Marissa Horner knew after her first at-bat that the Cougars would have to adjust at the plate.
“He called it both ways,” Horner said of the home plate umpire’s strike zone. “You have to be ready for whatever he calls. He was calling those low pitches and you have to be ready to hit those because that is what he was calling.”
AGWSR (28-8) had another runner in scoring position in the seventh when Horner singled and went to second on Zacharias’ sacrifice bunt. Frazier smoked a hard-hit grounder right to the second baseman to advance Horner to third, but pinch-hitter Alexa Johnson struck out swinging to end the game.
“The normal kids that have been coming up with big hits just couldn’t find holes today,” Drake said. “Ella tagged that ball in the seventh and others hit it hard, but it is what it is.”
Horner added, “We played with them and that’s good. I think we can beat that team though. We had our chances to win and just couldn’t execute when we needed to. It sucks, it does, but there is not a whole lot you can do about it now.”
AGWSR will turn its attention to Ridge View (31-12). The Raptors had their seven-game win streak snapped when they lost to No. 3 Durant, 6-0, Thursday. Ridge View defeated No. 1 North Union to clinch a state tourney berth and upset No. 6 Fort Dodge St. Edmond in Monday’s quarterfinals.
“They kind of made an unexpected and surprising run,” O’Brien said. “I think they finished fourth in their conference. They are a little bit of a Cinderella story. They have 30 wins but they may not have been expected to be here. But you don’t win 30 games on luck. You have to go out and play.”
The emotions could play havoc on the Cougars after Thursday’s semifinal defeat, but O’Brien said his seniors really want to go out on a high note and feels like the team will be up to the task.
“I really think our seniors want it bad,” O’Brien said. “I think they will have the team ready to go. I think Ashley will be sharper, too. I think they want to finish it on a high note. I think they will be ready.”
Madison Fryslie had two hits to lead the Cougars at the plate against Treynor.
The Cardinals, who also placed eighth in Class 1A in 2011, got big performances from the bottom of their order as No. 6 hitter Emma Fiene and No. 8 hitter Jennifer Owens both went 2-for-3. Fiene doubled and scored the eventual game-winning run on Owens’ two-out single in the fourth.
“We couldn’t get the key hit and the big hit when we needed it,” O’Brien said. “I thought we might be able to break through with the bases loaded (in the third), but that inning was the real key. If we would have gotten a run or two in that inning, we probably relax a little bit better at the plate.
“That’s how it goes. You have to battle through those things, and we did, but we were always one swing short at the wrong time.”
Keysor struck out 33 batters in three games during last year’s state title run, 15 in the championship game against Des Moines Christian. Travis agreed with the AGWSR coaches about the Cougars’ blunder in the third inning. “The first base coach tried to call it off,” she said. “We knew it had to be a mistake. That happens in the heat of the moment sometimes. That was an opportunity for them to blow it open. I have been in those situations before though. You have to move on, but it’s tough.” Six of the 14 hits in the game were either bunt singles or infield singles. The only extra-base hit was Fiene’s double that helped produce the game’s only run in the fourth inning.