STATE SOFTBALL: Walk-off winners: AGWSR ends state debut in 3rd place
FORT DODGE – Ashley Sicard’s double with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning would have scored three runs Friday during AGWSR’s third-place game against Ridge View.
However, the Cougars needed to score just twice for the win and Sicard’s two-run double to the left-center field gap sent eighth-ranked AGWSR to a walk-off, 3-2 victory over the Raptors during the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Rogers Sports Complex.
“I was nervous up there and just wanted to hit it,” said Sicard, who also struck out eight and earned the win in the circle. “I hadn’t done very well at the plate the last few games and just wanted to help my team.”
The Cougars’ first-ever trip to the state tournament ended with a third-place trophy. It also ended with a much-needed victory for a few outgoing seniors.
“I have never ended a sport with a win so this is a great feeling,” said senior Ella Frazier. “This team deserves it. We are all really proud of this. We are glad to see that our hard work paid off.”
In a game full of all kinds of emotions, AGWSR was forced to rally two different times before Sicard finally put the victory away with the game-winning double. She was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts prior to her final at-bat in the seventh inning.
“Ashley doesn’t reflect on her previous at-bats,” AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien said. “She is an in-the-moment player, and (Gretchen Kistenmacher) didn’t get one quite high enough and Ashley took care of business.”
Sicard’s efforts at the plate and in the circle earned her a spot on the Class 2A all-tournament team. Frazier also joined the 11-player squad.
Durant’s Paige Compton was voted the 2A all-tourney captain after leading the Wildcats to a 3-0 win over No. 2 and defending champion Treynor in the title game. Compton did not allow a run in the Wildcats’ three state tournament games.
AGWSR’s contest with upstart and unranked Ridge View (31-13) was scoreless through four innings, but the Raptors struck first in the fifth.
Emily Egger and Kaylee Blenner had back-to-back one-out singles before Sicard struck out Karlen Lamp swinging. Then with two outs, Kistenmacher reached on a Kristen Zacharias error, which allowed Egger to score from third. Zacharias made up for the error one inning later when her diving stop at the edge of the grass kept a run off the scoreboard.
“I had to move on to the next play, there was nothing I could do about it,” said Zacharias about the error. “We were pretty disappointed with the loss yesterday, but this kind of makes up for it. It feels good to go out with a victory.”
The Cougars (29-8) left runners on base in each of the first three innings and stranded two in the third and fifth innings before finally breaking through in the sixth.
Marissa Roberts began the two-out rally with a single and then pinch runner Abbie Young tied the game when she sprinted around the bases on Madison Fryslie’s RBI double.
“I was getting very nervous. But I knew that somehow we would pull through,” said junior Morgan Rose, who went 1-for-4 in the victory. “It feels great. I am so proud to represent my hometown and so proud of my team.”
Unfortunately for the Cougars, the Raptors snatched back the momentum in the top of the seventh, scoring a second unearned run with two outs after Nicole Snyder singled, took third on a Dana Hustedt double and then came home on a Marissa Horner error.
A bunting blunder may have cost the Cougars a win against Treynor on Thursday, but three straight successful bunts helped rally AGWSR past the Raptors one day later.
Zacharias led off the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single. Frazier then followed with another bunt that stopped dead on the third-base chalk line. It was the first time Frazier was asked to bunt this season.
“I won’t take too much credit for it. We all know that I am not a bunter,” Frazier said of the fortunate roll the ball took on the chalk line. “Scott told me to be prepared to bunt if Kristen got on, so I was ready to do it. I haven’t bunted all year, but it’s part of the game. It just worked to our advantage to get another runner on, too.”
Ingledue’s bunt attempt resulted in Ridge View’s third error of the game and loaded the bases for the Cougars.
That’s when Sicard came through with maybe the biggest hit of her young career. Having already struck out twice, she laced a two-strike pitch into a gap and sent the Cougar faithful into a frenzy.
Standing all alone on second base, Sicard smiled then took off toward her teammates, and the celebration was on.
“It is absolutely the best way to end my senior year,” Frazier said. “It kind of showed we were under-ranked all year. We were able to come here and make a name for ourselves, and it’s a great feeling.”
Frazier is not one to hold back her emotions. She admitted to crying more in victory Friday then she did in defeat Thursday. Some of the emotions came from knowing she is no longer Sicard’s battery mate.
“That’s another emotional part of this journey, but I am so happy for her,” Frazier said when asked about Sicard’s game-winning hit. “It is going to be hard to leave her because we have been together for a long time.”
It was certainly a season to remember for the Cougars, who ended the year by winning 13 of their final 15 games. That included an eight-game win streak that was snapped Thursday following the 1-0 loss to Treynor.
And not many teams in high school athletics get to end their season with a victory.
“It is great finishing on a high note,” AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake said. “This will give them some fire for next year. We are already planning hitting clinics for next summer.”
O’Brien thought his Cougars were a top-four team coming into the week. That proved to be true as AGWSR takes home a third-place trophy in its inaugural trip to the state softball tournament.
“I don’t think that’s too bad,” O’Brien said. “We wanted to be playing in the title game, but we can’t complain. I thought we were a top-four team coming in.
“The seniors are going to be tough to lose. I am so happy for them though. They are great kids and great leaders, and they will do well in whatever they do in life.”
The Cougars recorded seven hits from seven different players in the game. Zacharias singled, walked and scored a run to lead the offense, while Sicard and Fryslie each doubled and combined for three RBIs.
Sicard (29-5) allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked one but neither run was earned. Kistenmacher took the loss for Ridge View after allowing three earned runs on seven hits. She also fanned four and walked two. Egger and Hustedt each had two hits to lead the Raptors at the dish. Hustedt also walked, while Egger and Snyder scored a run.
AGWSR’s outgoing seniors are Frazier, Zacharias, Roberts, Horner and Hannah Johnson. … The rest of the Class 2A all-tournament team included Durant’s Sidney Lilienthal and Kristin Porstmann, Treynor’s Madison Keysor, Emma Fiene and Jennifer Owens, Jesup’s Kelsey Lough and Tessa Clayton and Hustedt. … Durant’s Compton threw 21 scoreless innings at the state tournament. She allowed eight hits and one walk while striking out 16 in the three victories. … The other state champions included Akron-Westfield (1A), Bondurant-Farrar (3A), Dallas Center-Grimes (4A) and Dowling Catholic (5A). … Both AGWSR and Ridge View had three errors Friday. The Cougars stranded seven on base, while the Raptors left eight on. … The overall attendance for the five-day tourney was 19, 576, which is the most since 2009. The 44-year Rogers Sports Complex state softball attendance now stands at 767,175.