Marlette, Ingledue power ranked Cougars back to regional final

ACKLEY – Playing in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division has prepared the Class 1A No. 4 AGWSR softball team for the postseason.

The Cougars played six games against two other ranked opponents within the league and that competition has helped AGWSR cruise through its first two rounds of the Region 3 tournament.

Junior Ashley Sicard twirled a two-hitter in the circle and Olivia Ingledue and Megan Marlette both had three hits at the plate and the Cougars dispatched Iowa Star Conference representative Colo-NESCO with ease here Friday. AGWSR plated eight runs in the third inning to pull away and eliminated the Royals, 11-0, in five innings to advance to its second consecutive regional final.

It was AGWSR’s fourth straight win and its 11th win in the last 12 games. During that four-game win streak, the Cougars are outscoring their opponents 45-0.

“It’s good because you don’t need to play under that intense pressure every game, but it’s bad because a little bit better pitching would be nice to see at this point in the season,” said AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien. “That East Marshall game will do more to get us ready for Monday than these last two games did, there’s no doubt about that.”

The Cougars went 1-2 against 3A No. 2 East Marshall this year and swept 2A No. 12 BCLUW. All three NICL West teams are still alive in the postseason as each has reached Monday’s regional final.

The Cougars will face another Iowa Star Conference team in Don Bosco in Parkersburg at 7 p.m. Monday. The Dons beat Central City 10-0 in five innings Friday night in their regional semifinal game.

The Dons (20-14) were third in the 1A state tournament last year and take a eight-game win streak into their meeting with the Cougars. AGWSR won the previous meeting back on June 6, 13-0, in four innings. Sicard allowed just one hit in that contest.

“There is a lot of tradition and a ton of pride and they’ll want to come and get us real bad,” said O’Brien. “I expect them to play their best game of the season.

“Jane Becker has coached 28 years and she won’t let that happen two times in a row.”

The Cougars’ fourth straight win was put away with an eight-run third inning against the Royals (8-17).

Ingledue singled and then scored on Marlette’s RBI hit to give the visitors on the scoreboard a 1-0 lead after one inning.

Ingledue again began the third inning with another single and then stole second. Sicard walked and Marlette made it 2-0 with another RBI hit.

“The pitches I hit were just right down the middle,” said Marlette. “I swing at the right pitch for me and those were right for me.”

Two base running blunders nearly put a dent in the inning, but the Cougars recovered nicely with four more hits. Maddie Deters’ two-run single made it 5-0 and then Ingledue collected her third hit of the night with a bases-loaded triple. She then scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-0 after 2 1/2 innings. Ingledue’s fourth RBI of the game came in the fourth inning when her ground out plated courtesy runner Anna Jaspers. Madison Fryslie also had a bases-loaded walk that scored Alexa Johnson earlier in the inning.

“We’ve come to the plate ready and are prepared,” said Ingledue. “Going through the playoffs and getting to state last year has helped. It’s less nerve wracking for sure.”

The 11 runs were more than enough support for Sicard, who came into the game with a miniscual 0.99 earned run average. She had a perfect game through three innings before Colo-NESCO senior catcher Kylie Sarver doubled to deep left field in the fourth. Samantha Riese also doubled in the fifth for the Royals’ other hit, but Sicard fanned seven and walked none in the win. She now has 257 strikeouts on the season.

“She only threw three bad pitches tonight and they hit two of them,” said O’Brien. “Otherwise, she looked pretty solid. She kept it down in the zone and mixed in different speeds.”

Colo-NESCO lost eight games in a row before postseason play began but scored upset wins over Southeast Webster-Grand and Grandview Park Baptist to reach the regional semifinals.

Head coach Stan Oppedal said he Royals squad simply got beat by a better team.

“That pitcher is tough and they got some really good hitters,” said Oppedal, who told the Times-Republican that Friday’s game would be his last as health concerns forced him to resign. “They earned it and are just a better team than we are.

“We played pretty well at times this year and moreso late in the year. It was good for us to play these guys. I told the girls that they will be a team like this in the future if they keep working hard.”

The short drive to Monday’s regional final in Parkersburg should help the Cougars as they attempt to earn a second straight state-tournament berth.

And after scoring 45 runs in their last four games, the Cougar bats should have plenty of confidence against a Dons’ squad who has outscored their opponents 61-7 during their current eight-game win streak.

Morgan Frost also has thrown four shutouts in the circle during that stretch. She is 15-10 on the season with an earned run average of 2.95 but walked eight and allowed five earned runs in the 13-0 loss to the Cougars back on June 6.

“Ashley was really sharp that day. They just weren’t ready for her,” said O’Brien. “She basically overpowered them, but I expect them to make adjustments.

“It will be nice to not have to drive very far and it won’t be unknown territory for us.”

Notebook

Mackenna Ruffcorn took the loss in the circle for the Royals. … Don Bosco played Colo-NESCO twice in Iowa Star Conference play this season and beat the Royals 8-7 and 11-7. … The Cougars were third in the Class 2A state tournament last year, while Don Bosco was third in 1A and lost to eventual state champion and current 1A No. 1 Akron-Westfield 1-0 in the semifinals. … O’Brien said he likes the Cougars’ latest surge with the bats but doesn’t think the last two games against CAL (12-0) and Colo-NESCO (11-0) will have an effect on Monday’s result. “It’s good when you can get people into the game,” he said. “That helps build confidence and get some runs on the board, but I don’t think these last two games will have any impact moving forward.”