Juniors Tasha Alexander and Nataliah Hopkins used the bat and the arm to advance in the Class 2A softball tournament Wednesday.
Alexander just missed hitting for the cycle and Hopkins hurled a four-hitter and struck out six to help Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont to a 7-1 victory over North Mahaska.
The game was closer than the score might indicate. Eddyvville-Blakesburg-Fremont took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after a scoring opportunity was erased in the first. The Rocket’s Rachel Maloy reached base on the only walk issued by North Mahaska’s Nicole Brand.
Makenzie Jensen, who ran for Maloy, scored on Shelby Allgood’s single.
A second possible run was erased by a play at third by North Mahaska third baseman Carissa McBirnie.
North Mahaska (19-12) was able to tie the contest with their sole run in the top of the third. Freshman Carly Ehret hit a bunt single with two out. She advanced on Sarah Bowen’s single and an error by the right fielder. Bowen reached third, but was stranded. The Warhawks managed just two more baserunners the rest of the way.
Rocket skipper Tony Fenton said it was a combination of his team’s defense and pitching that aided the win.
“We kept people off base and she (Hopkins) had some strikeouts,” said Fenton. “Our defense is pretty tough.”
North Mahaska coach Chris Sampson echoed Fenton’s sentiments.
“We got beat by a good ball club,” said Sampson. “Probably one of the best we have seen all year. From top to bottom they hit the ball well. Pretty solid defensively. We played well, but they got the runs they needed.”
Sadie Baugher got the Rocket ship rolling in the fourth with a leadoff ground rule double. Allgood reached on a fielder’s choice and a pitch hit Paige Shafer, with bases loaded, Haegen Boyer singled, then Alexander cleared the bases with a double.
Hopkins added a double then in the sixth Alexander drilled a ball over the left field fence.
“The bats were there,” said Fenton. “We put a lot of pressure on them and we got people on.
“We didn’t get the hits real early, and ran ourselves out of an inning, but the bats were there and we played with a lot of confidence. Hopefully we can keep that in for the next game.”
Sampson knew what the Rockets were a strong hitting team.
“They earned every run,” said Sampson. “We knew they were going to hit the ball. I knew we were going to have to play one of our best games.”
One scary moment for the Warhawks came in the fourth inning. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont catcher Jarrah Jensen smashed a strong drive toward the left field line.
Fielder Caprice Dye raced and grabbed the ball then collided with the fence and fell crumpled to the ground. She would leave the game, but did not require medical attention.
“After she made the catch she hit the fence with her thigh and knee, nothing upper body,” said Sampson. “But with the major concussion earlier (this season) I wasn’t going to take any chances.”
Hopkins was able to force the Warhawks into routine ground balls or flyouts while setting the side down in order four times.
“I don’t know if we were ready for what she (Hopkins) brought pitching wise,” said Sampson. “She wasn’t throw anything we hadn’t seen before, she just had enough movement and hit the spots and we weren’t prepared for that.”
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont improves to 25-8 on the season. The Rockets face Iowa City Regina Friday at 7 p.m.
The game will be played at Regina.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 7, North Mahaska 1
NM 001 000 0 — 1 4
EBF 010 501 x — 7 14
North Mahaska battery — Nicole Brand (L, 6 IP, 7 R, BB) and Michaela Heys.