Cougars clinch back-to-back berths

PARKERSBURG – Ashley Sicard proved just how much she means to the AGWSR softball team Monday night.

After pitching around some trouble in both the third and fourth innings, the Cougar junior unleashed a 220-foot blast to right-center field that helped give her squad some breathing room on the scoreboard.

That fourth run wasn’t enough to win the game, but the fourth-ranked Cougars never trailed during a 9-5 victory over Don Bosco in the Class 1A Region 3 final here.

Senior Olivia Ingledue also corked her first career home run in the third inning and fellow senior Madison Fryslie reached base four times as the Cougars clinched their second straight berth into the Iowa Girls State Softball Tournament.

“After four years of not being able to hit the ball real well, that felt really good,” said Ingledue, who had her second consecutive three-hit game and scored twice. “I was nervous from the beginning but got really nervous when it got to 3-2. The nerves went away though when we started to hit the gaps.”

Hitting the gaps started in the fifth inning when Sicard crushed her 1A-leading 14th homer of the season. It continued in the sixth when Ingledue singled, Megan Marlette doubled and Morgan Rose singled to help push the lead to 9-2.

The Cougars cranked out 10 hits, and that was key to AGWSR winning its second consecutive regional final.

“I think the jury is still out as far as whether or not we are better than last year, but this team is in the same conversation,” said AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien. “Tonight we showed what we are capable of doing offensively. That is what I think we have been lacking but tonight they really stayed focused and got the barrel on the ball.”

AGWSR will be the No. 3 seed when the 1A portion of the state softball tournament kicks off Tuesday. The Cougars will face sixth-seeded and unranked Marquette Catholic (34-6) at 3:30 p.m. on Mittera Field at Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.

Don Bosco, which advanced to the 1A state tournament last year and came in winnners of seven straight, scored two unearned runs in the third inning to trim the Cougars’ lead to 3-2. The Dons strung together four hits and three runs off Sicard in the sixth to make it 9-5, but the Cougar junior pitched around five errors, including a two-out error in the seventh that pushed back the celebration.

“We needed to keep scoring runs,” said AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake. “We knew they would come back and hit the ball.”

Sicard came into the game having allowed just 27 earned runs in 196 innings and threw a four-inning, one-hit shutout against Don Bosco earlier this season.

But O’Brien knew Monday’s regional final wouldn’t be that easy. The Dons finished with five hits but also committed five errors in the field.

“We probably should have went to the change up more tonight,” said O’Brien. “(Don Bosco) came at that first pitch really hard. It was a tough zone, which I think hurt them more than it hurt us. A tight zone with Ashley pitching isn’t quite as bad for someone else who can’t throw the ball by people like she can.”

Sicard threw the ball by Don Bosco hitters nine times, giving her 266 strikeouts on the season. Her home run in the fifth pushed the Cougars’ lead to 4-2 and the Cougars never looked back.

“Ashley’s was a tape-measure job,” said O’Brien. “You should appreciate them but you almost expect it. When she is gone, it will be a long time before we see anything like that again.

“Olivia has surprising power. That was great to see her do that, too.”

The Cougars graduated several key seniors off last year’s Class 2A third-place team. But the new batch of players, along with Sicard, Ingledue, Rose and Fryslie, never doubted that another run to state was possible.

“I think there was definitely some people who underestimated us,” said Fryslie, who singled twice and scored three runs in the win. “We knew we had some good players returning.”

Notebook

The Class 1A state tournament field includes undefeated and top-ranked Akron-Westfield (35-0), No. 2 Lynnville-Sully (34-1), fifth-ranked Wayne (27-6) and sixth-ranked Martensdale-St. Marys (25-4).