East Marshall sinks Sailors’ bid

LE GRAND – The hosts weren’t nearly as hospitable as their guests.

Everything Waterloo Columbus offered up, East Marshall happily accepted. And the Mustangs are advancing as a result.

Second-ranked East Marshall took advantage of five Waterloo Columbus errors, four free passes and a handful of wild pitches to eliminate the Sailors, 8-1, in Friday’s Class 3A Region 4 softball semifinals.

Mustang junior catcher Ashley Allen homered in her second straight postseason game, batterymate Mariah Fritz struck out nine amidst a three-hitter, and East Marshall (31-3) moved within one win of a third straight trip to the state tournament.

Not even the highest scoring team in 3A could knock the Mustangs off course. Columbus (33-7) committed more errors than it could afford – on both sides of the ball – while collecting just one hit through the first six innings.

The Sailors finally pieced two hits together with a walk and East Marshall’s only error in the top of the seventh, scoring a too little, too late run against a whopping deficit.

“We didn’t scout East Marshall really hard, but everybody we talked to said they were a darn good team, so we knew we needed to be prepared,” said Columbus coach Chris Olmstead. “They put the bat on the ball.

“I don’t want to take anything away from East Marshall, because they’re a good team, but I wish we could have given them a better game. They scored two runs in the first inning and we never really got our bearings after that.”

The Sailors appeared rattled from the get-go. Bobbi Amendt’s swinging bunt got her to second base when Columbus pitcher Brooke Craig threw wide of first. Amendt stole third uncontested before Ashley Allen’s fly ball to shallow center field dropped out of Brenna Armstrong’s glove.

One out later, Haley Long lashed a double down the right-field line, putting the Mustangs up 2-0.

“Boy we jumped on them 2-0, and the way Fritty (Fritz) was throwing, I thought two would be enough,” said Mustangs coach Jary Hoskey. “And it was, but I sure like the way we kept putting the ball in play.”

Taylor Fricke led off the fourth with a single that scooted past the left fielder, and a wild pitch moved her to third. A one-out walk to Kylee Hoskey was followed by Maci Fritz’s grounder off the second baseman’s glove, driving in Fricke.

Another wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Sophia Grego, who grounded out to plate another.

Already leading 4-0, the Mustangs sent nine batters to the plate in the fifth. After Amendt was hit by a pitch and stole second, Allen rocked a belt-high fastball over the scoreboard in center field.

It was Allen’s eighth round-tripper of the season, and fifth in the last three weeks.

“Ashley’s was a shot,” smiled Coach Hoskey. “She certainly is the glue that holds Mariah together on the mound, and she is pretty darn important in the third spot in our batting order too.”

Allen drove in her third run of the night with a single in the bottom of the sixth. Mariah Fritz reached on an error and her courtesy runner Mackenzie Andrews moved up on Amendt’s sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch.

Columbus got a leadoff double from Emma Shannon in the top of the seventh, and she eventually scored on Alexia Meeks’ groundout back to the circle. A walk to Grace Surma and an infield single for Chloe Jameson loaded the bases, but Mariah Fritz finished off the last two batters with strikeouts to end the game.

“She’s a dominant pitcher,” Olmstead said of Fritz. “She works so fast and she’s got a pretty good selection of pitches to choose from. She adds that fastball that has really good velocity, and she did a pretty good job of keeping us in check.

“Good pitching shuts down good hitting, and Mariah Fritz did a good job with that.”

Anna Strien’s one-out double to the fence in right-center field was Waterloo Columbus’ only other hit. Fritz walked three and hit a batter but still limited the top scoring team in 3A to a lonely run.

The Sailors, who won 18 of 19 coming into the regional semifinal, were not shut out all season. Only three teams held them to one run: 3A No. 1 Benton Community, 3A No. 2 East Marshall, and 2A No. 12 BCLUW.

“Fritty, she’s tough,” Coach Hoskey said of his right-hander. “It’s a good thing she’s definitely a competitor. When she gets down in the count she just bows her neck and comes back.”

Allen and Long both led the Mustangs with two hits, while Maci Fritz was 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Amendt singled, stole two bases and scored twice.

East Marshall and returning 3A qualifier New Hampton (15-19) will square off Monday night at 7 p.m. at Waterloo West. The Chickasaws upended Crestwood 11-7 in the other regional semifinal.