LENOX – It was a marathon of an evening for Lenox and East Union softball Friday night, with the Eagles outlasting the Tigers in a 3-2 final in 15 innings.
The 15 inning contest nearly ended in regulation, with Lenox trailing 2-1 in the seventh. But, a rally surmounted for Lenox that forced extras.
A Cadence Douglas single with one out put the tying run on-base in the seventh. With Marcey Bailey pinch hitting, she grounded out to East Union pitcher Mallory Raney for the second out to put the tying run Douglas on second.
Freshman Emilee Reed singled up the middle, barely getting under the outstretched glove of the second baseman. With Douglas getting waived around, a throw in to catcher Kaitlyn Mitchell beat her there, but as the tag was applied she wasn’t able to hang on to the ball.
“It was kind of do or die. How bad do you want it? Do you want to win this game?” said Lenox head coach Mandy Stoaks.
A strikeout to Cassidy Nelson ended the inning to force extras. From there, it was a lot of zeroes on the score board leading to the go-ahead score in the top of the 15th.
Lenox had TJ Stoaks on third base in the eighth, but couldn’t get her across, and EU had Raney get to second base in the ninth, but didn’t drive her in.
Mitchell got on in the top of the 15th by an error, and made her way to third by a passed ball with no outs.
A Kerrigan infield single scored Mitchell to break the scoreless tie, the first run scored in nearly an hour and 20 minutes.
In the bottom half, Lenox went down quietly to close the book on one of the longest games played this season in the state of Iowa.
East Union head coach Todd Verwers knew base runners would come at a premium, especially with all-state pitcher TJ Stoaks in the circle for Lenox.
“Base runners were at a premium in a game like this and a pitcher like that (Stoaks),” said Verwers. “That’s one of the best pitchers in the state, in Class 1A, hands down. ... When base runners are a premium in 15 innings and not a lot of scoring going on, you’ve got to take advantage of your chances, and we were fortunate enough to have a bounce go our way.”
In the circle, both pitchers were magnificent. Stoaks struck out 26 batters and allowed six hits. Her three runs allowed were unearned.
Raney struck out 11, walking five and allowing one earned run. She also gave up six hits on her way to the win.
“You shouldn’t lose a game when you strike 26 people out,” said Mandy Stoaks, showing a little bit of frustration with the outcome.
The outing from Stoaks puts her in the mix for one of the greatest games pitched in Iowa high school softball history. With the circle moving from 40 to 43 feet in 2010, her strikeout total makes it the second highest number in 43-foot era. Josie Brackie’s 27 punchouts in 2012 for Lake Mills in a 14 1/3 inning game is the record.
Verwers, an accomplished coach through both the high school and collegiate levels, had strong praise for Raney’s efforts.
“I’ll tell you what, I won a state title game in 2012 in 11 innings, this is probably a better performance than that and that was a heck of a performance,” said Verwers on Raney. “She’s tough. She can be as she wants to be, balls move even when she makes mistakes. ... She didn’t give up and this was her game to win or lose, and she buckled down and didn’t give in. I think she took a big step toward becoming the elite pitcher I think she can be.”
The rebirth of East Union softball has put other teams on notice, and with Verwers at the helm in his first year with the program, Mandy Stoaks knows how good this team can be.
“I knew with him over there, they were going to be a better team,” said Mandy Stoaks. “He teaches the fundamentals and they’ve improved a lot from what they’ve been in the past. ... We tried to get the girls prepared and they made the plays, we didn’t.”
Both offenses struggled at the plate, combining for 15 hits.
“We’ve got to put a bunt down. We couldn’t put one down for anything, they’re not doing it fundamentally right,” said Mandy Stoaks. “We need to make some corrections on that and we need to get the right hit to score the runners. We had runners, we just couldn’t get them in.”
Verwers thinks Friday’s win is a sign the girls are starting to understand the routines and fundamentals he has been teaching for the last few weeks, and that it’s a sign of the program taking off.
“I think the girls are finally understanding a routine and a purpose in the way we do things,” said Verwers. “I think maybe tonight was a culmination of that understanding. ... We did a really good job, especially in the last three innings.
“We’ll try to build on this and try to realize we are pretty good if we’re playing well and do things the right way,” Verwers said.
UP NEXT – Lenox heads to Lamoni for a 7 p.m. start today (Monday). East Union will head to Murray for 7:30 p.m. start against the Murray Lady Mustangs.
East Union 3, Lenox 2 (15)
R H E
EU 000 200 000 000 001 — 3 7 3
LX 100 000 100 000 000 — 2 8 3
LX: TJ Stoaks 15IP 26K 2BB and Cassidy Nelson. EU: Mallory Raney 15IP 11K 5BB and Kaitlyn Mitchell. W - Raney. L - Stoaks. HR — None. 3B — None. 2B —LX: McKinna Hogan, Stoaks. EU: Molly McNeill. RBI — LX: Stoaks (1), Emilee Reed (1). EU: Chloe Kerrigan (1). Multiple hits — LX: Stoaks (2), Reed (2). EU: Kaitlyn Mitchell (2)