Mustangs grab upper hand

CONRAD – East Marshall coach Jary Hoskey considers Taylor Fricke’s role in the lineup “the fun part.”

That doesn’t mean the junior clean-up hitter doesn’t take her job seriously.

Breaking open a pitchers’ duel in the sixth inning, Fricke lofted a two-run shot over the left field fence to give the Class 3A No. 3 Mustangs some cushion in a 3-0 win over BCLUW in North Iowa Cedar League West Division play Thursday.

“I just always listen to coach,” Fricke said, “he tells me that I have the fun part, so I just did my job and made it fun for the team. I just trust my hands and go with the pitch, whatever happens, happens.”

Mariah Fritz scattered three hits and struck out 13 in a complete-game effort as the Mustangs (8-3, 7-1) picked up their eighth win in their last nine outings.

Nicolette Simpson limited East Marshall to just two hits through the first five frames before Ashley Allen laced a single down the third base line and Fricke followed by lifting a low pitch to left for her third homer this year to plate pinch runner Shae Fetters.

BCLUW coach Casey Moberley said Simpson’s pitch was in the right spot, Fricke just made something out of it.

“It was just a well hit ball,” Moberley said of Fricke’s home run. “We know that we’ve got to be careful when we throw to her, she’s got a good swing. She took a pitch that shouldn’t have necessarily been a home run ball and made it a home run ball. That’s all I can ask of Nicolette, (Fricke) just beat us with the swing.”

East Marshall gave Fritz all the run support she needed in the third as Bobbi Amendt singled and an errant throw to first allowed pinch runner Haley Fye to wheel around third for the go-ahead run. Amanda Paxton singled to left to start the inning and pinch runner Fye moved into scoring position on Fritz’s groundout.

BCLUW’s best scoring chance came in its first at-bat as Mallory Vawter opened with a walk and Kendal Scurr laid down a bunt single before Fritz retired the next three batters on strikes.

“(Vawter and Scurr) are excellent ballplayers with excellent speed,” Hoskey said. “Mariah gets the ball across the plate with her velocity and that helped us. She’s tough and when she’s on, we’re tough.”

Scurr, Sara Sharp and Kayla Fisher each had a hit for the Comets (8-2, 7-1), who saw their seven-game win streak snapped. Much of that had to do with Fritz’s performance in the circle.

“She was moving her spots and we were a little too anxious,” Moberley said. “We just need to go in there with confidence, control and poise, and just get some hits. That’s the first night that we’ve seen pitching like that in a while. We just need to be able to adjust to it better.”

Simpson allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over six innings in the loss. She struck out four and walked two. Olivia Callaway tossed a scoreless one-hit inning in the seventh. Fritz (6-1) won her sixth straight decision, while raising her season strikeout total to 59.

Both of the BCLUW’s losses have come against Class 3A ranked foes, though the Comets themselves are still outside the rankings.

“Rankings isn’t something I generally look at,” Moberley said. “Someone mentioned to me that we weren’t ranked and it did kind of surprise me, but at the same time, we lost a good catcher and an outfielder (from last year). These girls are stepping up huge and we’re playing pretty good ball right now. Tonight we just didn’t hit the ball.”

Paxton, Amendt, Allen, Kylee Hoskey and Maci Fritz each singled for the Mustangs.

Coach Hoskey, whose club has also lost to only ranked teams and is coming off back-to-back state tourney trips, foresees big things ahead for the Comets.

“We faced an awfully good team here, probably a team that will make the state tournament,” Hoskey said. “We were just lucky to come away with a 3-0 shutout.”

The Mustangs will compete in the BGM Tournament Saturday starting at 9 a.m. The Comets are in action Friday and Saturday at the Ballard Softball Festival. Friday’s game against Boone starts at 7 p.m.

Notebook

East Marshall’s three losses have come against ranked foes including Class 1A No. 6 AGWSR, Class 4A No. 8 Ballard and Class 3A No. 4 Bondurant-Farrar. Bondurant-Farrar handed BCLUW its only other loss of the year.

The Mustangs and Comets split a pair of games last year with the visiting team claiming each.