April 17, 2024

Spartans trip twice at home

Southwestern shortstop Brooklyn Hadl reaches to catch a deep popup as left fielder Jayda Chew backs up the play during Friday's doubleheader against Marshalltown.

Southwestern softball coach Danny Jensen hopes a Friday doubleheader loss to Marshalltown isn’t costly at the end of the season.

The Tigers, unable to field a team a year ago due to a lack of available players, captured their first two victories of the 2024 season Friday on the Spartan diamond, 7-5 and 9-6.

That lifts Marshalltown into fourth place in the five-team ICCAC Division I standings at 2-4, while improving to 2-8 overall. Only four teams advance to the Division I regional tournament at the end of the season, and Southwestern fell to fifth place at 0-4, while slipping to 8-12 overall.

Ahead of both of them are Iowa Western (5-1), Indian Hills (3-1) and Southeastern (2-2).

“We play them again at their place later in the season (April 21) and I’m not sure how the tiebreaker works, but I’m guessing if we’re tight with them at that time we’ll probably need to sweep and win by greater margins to pass them,” Jensen said.

Jensen said the Spartan offense was snakebit by too many line drives hit for outs against an errorless Marshalltown defense during the twinbill, while pitching location plagued his hurlers on a day with a 15 mph south wind blowing directly to left field. Marshalltown hit four home runs in the opener, including two by catcher Paige Westlin, and added two more in the nightcap.

Southwestern had back-to-back homers by Ashton Willis and Brooklyn Hadl after Kaitlyn Mitchell’s double in the seventh inning of the opener, but the comeback from a 7-1 deficit fell short. Jayliegh Robins and Erika Kruse had SWCC’s only extra-base hits in the second game.

Southwestern coach Danny Jensen gives a "high five" to third baseman Ashton Willis (4) after her two-run home run in the seventh inning of Friday's 7-5 loss to Marshalltown. Willis had five hits in the two games.

Starting pitcher Erika Kruse lasted less than two innings in the opener after yielding two homers and falling behind 6-1. Cora Ostrem allowed only one run on five hits in more than five innings of solid relief pitching.

Ostrem also started game two and didn’t have such good fortune, Marshalltown erased a 3-0 deficit with a five-run second inning. Kirsten Streeter finished the final 5 1/3 innings with only two runs allowed and six strikeouts.

Cora Ostrem pitches to SWCC catcher Kaitlyn Mitchell during the first game of Friday's doubleheader against Marshalltown. Ostrem had four strikeouts and allowed only one run in five relief innings.

Former Moulton-Udell pitcher Lexis Smith went the distance for Marshalltown, stranding several Spartan baserunners with six walks and seven hits allowed. She was backed by an offense pounding out nine runs on eight hits, including four for extra bases.

“I think we had nine line drives that were caught,” Jensen said. “Ostrem pitched well in relief in the first game, and Streeter pitched pretty well in the second game, but they hit some home runs on bad pitch location. They did their damage at the top of the order. Our spin pitches were staying too straight and getting too much of the plate against their best hitters. Location at this level is so important, especially on a day where people are getting popup home runs with the wind blowing out.”

Mitchell, sophomore from East Union, caught the opener for Kruse and Ostrem and went 2-of-3 at the plate with a double and single. Willis had a home run and double at the top of the order, driving in three runs. Hadl finished with a homer and single.

Southwestern's Kaitlyn Mitchell (11) scores on a single by Lily McCrae in Friday's 7-5 loss to Marshalltown. Mitchell had two hits in the game.

In the second game, Willis again had a pair of hits. Jayliegh Robins stroked two doubles with two RBIs. Kruse, playing first base, knocked in a pair of runs on a double and single. Calie Allen reached base three times with two walks and an RBI single.

The Spartans travel south this week before returning home Sunday for a conference doubleheader against Indian Hills at 1 p.m. Southwestern travels to Kansas City (Kansas) Community College Wednesday (rescheduled from Tuesday) before playing at Metropolitan Community College Thursday in Gladstone, Missouri.

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.