LEGRAND — It is a game of Inches. That old saying was never more clearly illustrated than in Friday night’s Class 2A Regional semi-final between the Pella Christian Eagles and the East Marshall Mustangs.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Natalie Harrill ripped a two-out double to the right field corner and then scored on a solid single up the middle by Cheyanne Collins. The Eagles took that one run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning and were two outs away from upsetting the No. 12 ranked Mustangs on their home field.
Now, this is where the inches thing comes into play.
With Collins dealing in the circle, the first out was recorded by a groundout to Harrill at shortstop. Then leadoff hitter, Regan McIlrath hit a deflected infield single and Emma Pfantz stroked a single to right field. Number three hitter, Hannah Birks, blooped a hit just fair by inches behind first base to load the sacks.
With powerful cleanup hitter, Kennedy Wheater, at the dish, Collins tried to jam her to get a popup or a weak ground ball. But the pitch nicked Wheater to force the tying run to score.
Inches again, and inches once more as Catelyn Fisher lined a shot up the middle that was just off the glove of the infielder. The agony of defeat, settled over the Eagle side of the field.
The Eagles did not get many opportunities against Mustang pitcher, Kodie Hoskey, after the first inning. The best chance was in the top of the sixth when Chloe Morgan sent a screaming shot to the base of the left field fence for a leadoff double. She moved to third on a ground out, but was stranded by a popup and a strikeout.
Collins was masterful in the circle as she dodged bullets in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings with some gutsy pitches, but the inches thing caught up with her in the seventh.
“It is never easy to battle through adversity,” Eagle coach Karen Harrill said. “We played awesome, but just didn’t quite get the job done. I am proud of the never give up attitude of our kids. We tried to stay focused, but just couldn’t put the hits together. East Marshall is a very well coached team and their pitcher was very good.”
The Eagles put the cap on the shortened season with a 10-9 record in the rugged competition of the Little Hawkeye Conference. And they bid a fond farewell to seniors, Morgan, Collins, Sierra Pleima and Emerson Sarver.
Pella Christian 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 6 3
East Marshall 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 — 2 7 0
Pella Christian Battery – Cheyanne Collins (LP), 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 HB and Sydney Nunnikhoven
Pella Christian Hitting –Chloe Morgan 1-for-3, Emri Agre 1-for-3, Natalie Harrill 1-for-3, Collins 1-for-2, Sierra Pleima 1-for-3, Emma Witzenburg 1-for-2.
2B – Morgan 1, Harrill 1
Pella Christian Runs – Harrill 1
Pella Christian RBI – Collins 1