single, an errant throw to first base got away from Madison Bagnall, which pushed the Norwalk lead to 5-2.
Newton responded in the bottom of the inning. Bagnall roped a double down the left field line that clanked up against the fence. Fran Lucas’ RBI groundout brought the Cardinals back within two runs at 5-3.
The game would stay contentious until the Warriors broke things open in the top of the sixth inning.
Back to back singles put two Warriors on base and a double laced out to left-center field scored a run. An infield single loaded the bases for Norwalk. A two-out single up the middle allowed a run to score, but Hoffman cut off the throw to home and was able to nail the runner trying to stretch a single into a double to retire the side.
Newton recovered a little bit in its turn at bat. Bagnall pulled a high fly ball down the left-field line that soared over the fence and cracked a car windshield, pulling the Cardinals within three.
Norwalk would add three more runs to its total in the top of the seventh inning, and the Cardinals were unable to mount a rally in the bottom of the seventh to close things out.
Despite the loss, Newton coach Ashley Ryan is loving the improvement her team has shown in the past few weeks. The Cardinals have been much more comptetive as of late, even in games that don’t end up in a win.
“I still feel like we’re probably playing our best ball at the moment right now. Yeah, we lost to Norwalk, but they’re a good team. I thought that we threw what we had at them,” Ryan said.
Although the final score suggests a blowout, this game was tight all the way through until Norwalk’s final turn at-bat, when the Warriors were able to jump on the Cards.
The game was a stark difference from the Cards’ trip to Norwalk last month, a game in which they failed to reach base in a five-inning blowout.
“It was night and day from last time. We’re playing to our potential, and that’s great to see going into Thursday,” Ryan said.
The Cards open regional play in Des Moines on Thursday, and their revised collective focus suggests they will be far from an easy-out in postseason play.
“I think they’re more focused. We have really preached getting seven innings in,” Ryan said. “We just want to stay out of that one bad inning. I think we have gotten to the point where if we give up a run or make an error, we’re ready to forget about it and keep playing.”