The softball regular season officially kicked off for the Cardinals upon the first pitch by junior Ashton Hoffman Tuesday night. It was a cool night at Berg Middle School, but given the crowd and the combined enthusiasm of both teams, it was the perfect night to play ball.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, some missed opportunities and perhaps some rust led to a 6-3 loss to visiting Marshalltown. The Bobcats’ big rally came on back-to-back doubles in the second inning, resulting in three runs for Marshalltown. The team picked up two more runs in the top of the fifth to put the game somewhat out of reach.
“We knew it was going to be a little rocky, especially with not having everybody here,” Newton coach Ashley Ryan said. “We missed our soccer girls tonight. We haven’t had a full team practice yet. It’s good just to get out here. I’m not going to just let this little bump hurt us at all. That’s the key. We told the girls that they can’t let this start of the season bump you down or dictate the whole year. There’s tons of ball left. You’re going to have that. You’re going to have ups and downs, and you’ve got to just play through it.”
Hoffman pitched all seven innings, and despite a couple of hiccups, she did her job in the circle with some crucial strikeouts when the Cards needed them the most.
“Ashton did pretty well,” Ryan said. “For the first time out, she moved it around well for us. She got a few big strikeouts for us. They got their hits, but they did go to state last year. She did what we asked. We asked for our defense to make plays, and she pitched pretty well for us tonight.”
The Cards had their opportunities in the bottom halves of the innings, but ultimately, the team left many opportunities stranded. Sophomore Sarah Kalkhoff led off the bottom of the second inning with a single. Junior Morgan Davros followed with a walk, and with one out, Hoffman hit a scorcher straight into the mitt of the left fielder. The Bobcats then got a pickoff to end the inning.
Then there was the bottom of the fifth when the Cards loaded the bases with one out following a dropped flyball, but two groundouts finished off the inning with no runs crossing the plate. Kalkhoff hit a ball through the first baseman’s legs to bring in a run in the seventh, but it was too little too late as the Cards were unable to scrape together enough clutch hits for a significant rally.
“We need to execute a little bit better,” Ryan said. “We need to have better confidence at the plate. We kind of looked a little nervous. I don’t know if that’s the nerves of the first game out, but we’ve got to be swinging the bat with confidence. It will come. We need to take a lot more live cuts, but I’m not too worried about it. We just need more confidence at the plate”
That Cards will look to get their first win of the season when they travel to Ames on Friday.