Late rally helps propel AGWSR to sweep

CONRAD – BCLUW sophomore Olivia Callway retired the first 16 AGWSR hitters she faced during game one of an NICL West Division doubleheader here Monday.

But once the Cougars finally figured her out, the hits were easy to come by.

Class 1A No. 4 AGWSR collected two hits and scored two runs to take the lead for good in the top of the sixth inning in the opener and that momentum carried into the nightcap as the Cougars swept the doubleheader with 2-1 and 12-4 victories.

Junior Ashley Sicard fanned 10 in the opener and struck out nine more in game two as she won both games in the circle to improve to 10-2 on the season.

The wins for the Cougars also kept them in a first-place tie with East Marshall in the NICL West. The Mustangs, Cougars and BCLUW all entered the night with identical 7-1 conference records, and like AGWSR, East Marshall exited the night at 9-1 after a sweep of South Tama County.

“It was huge. These are two big wins,” said AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien. “And I wasn’t sure our bats were going to wake up in time in that first game. (Callaway) wasn’t fooling us anymore in the last two innings though. All of our contacts were line drives.”

The bats did finally wake up for the Cougars, who improved to 10-3-1 overall and ended a short two-game skid in the process. But when contact wasn’t finding holes in the BCLUW defense, the Comets were committing errors. Class 2A No. 11 BCLUW (8-4, 7-3) had 10 errors on the night in dropping to third place in NICL West Division play.

“Not pulling the first one out probably took some wind out of our sails, but you still have to pick yourself up,” said BCLUW coach Casey Moberly. “It’s a brand new ball game and you start from scratch. Defensively, we just didn’t have it tonight and offensively, we need to make some adjustments.”

Sicard came into the night with an earned run average of .74 and now has 117 strikeouts to just 11 walks on the year. And even though she has already logged a lot of innings – and will continue to do so the rest of the way – O’Brien isn’t too worried about the fatigue factor with his all-state pitcher.

“We do worry. But we are through the peak part of the season,” he said. “She looks good so far and she is in better shape health-wise than she was last year. She is better prepared for this kind of run.”

Callaway had the Cougars’ number through five innings of the opener. She didn’t allow a base runner until Alexa Johnson singled with one out. Then with two outs, Madison Fryslie and Olivia Ingledue hit line drives that couldn’t be handled by Comet infielders. Sicard drew a four-pitch walk after that and Morgan Rose capped the two-run inning with an RBI single.

BCLUW’s Kendall Scurr and Mallory Vawter both got bunt singles to start the bottom of the sixth, but the Cougars got out of the jam when Rose snatched a short pop fly from Nicolette Simpson and then doubled off Vawter at first.

The Comet threat ended when Callaway flied out to right and then Sicard struck out the side for the second time in the seventh to seal the win.

The rally may have given the Cougars an extra boost for game two. AGWSR wasted no time against Simpson, scoring two runs in each of the first three frames to go up 6-0. Four of the first six runs for the Cougars were either scored by a passed ball or a wild pitch.

Ingledue and Sicard both had RBI hits in the first inning.

“We emphasized that we needed to go at them right away and get them down and keep them down,” said O’Brien. “It had to be mentally tough to lose a game like that so the sooner we could jump on them the sooner we knew it would be beneficial for us.”

Simpson, who came into the night with an earned run average of .64, struggled to slow down the Cougars and was pulled in favor of Samantha Ubben in the fourth inning.

“She just struggled. It was a bad night and everyone has them,” said Moberly. “It will be good to see how she bounces back Thursday night. You can always tell the character of a kid the next time out after a night like tonight.”

With the Cougars already up 6-2, Jami Johnson put an exclamation point on the sweep when she blasted a three-run home run to left-center field in the fifth. She also added a two-run single in the sixth after BCLUW cut into its deficit with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.

It was the first varsity home run for Johnson, who is replacing graduated senior Ella Frazier behind the plate this season.

“I just know how hard she has worked on her hitting the last two years,” said O’Brien of Johnson. “She is really grinding away at it. She is not a natural super athlete, but she is a hard working kid who loves to play softball. It is good to see that kind of player have some success.”

The Cougars will travel to Dike-New Hartford for one game on Wednesday, while BCLUW next hosts South Tama County for one game. Both contests kick off at 8 p.m.

Notebook

Two of AGWSR’s three losses have come against ranked foes in 3A No. 5 East Marshall and 4A No. 14 Waverly-Shell Rock, while BCLUW’s four losses have all come against ranked teams. Besides the two losses to AGWSR, the Comets also lost to East Marshall as well as to 3A No. 2 Bondurant-Farrar. … Callaway doubled and her pinch runner (Kate Goecke) scored the Comets’ lone run in the second inning of game one, while Mallory Vawter and Becca Steckelberg both had doubles against Sicard in the nightcap. Steckelberg had two hits and scored a run in total. … The Cougars took third at last year’s Class 1A state softball tournament but graduated over half their starting lineup from that team. … Both teams combined to strand nine runners on base in the doubleheader. … Jodi Johnson had an RBI single in the Cougars’ four-run fifth inning in game two.