MONROE — With senior Payge Edwards in control from the pitching circle, Prairie City- Monroe High teammates sophomore Makenna Van Veen and junior Abigail Gilson fueled the Mustang offense in Tuesday’s Iowa Class 3A opening round regional softball game.
The Mustangs powered past visiting Nevada High’s Cubs 11-1 in six innings. It was a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth that put the game on ice and propelled the Mustangs into the next round of the regional tournament.
Van Veen went long-ball, small-ball against the Cubs. The junior left fielder already had a single in the game, which the Mustangs turned into a run in the second inning, when she stepped to the plate to lead off the fourth for PCM.
“I was hitting really well tonight. Our hitting has been strong this year and we’ve really been working on that,” Van Veen said. Van Veen’s fourth home run of the season was a solo shot that got out over the left field fence quickly.
That run answered Nevada’s single run in the top of the fourth. The Cubs had used two singles and a sacrifice bunt to score. The Mustangs led 4-1 at the end of four complete innings.
It was a Van Veen bunt single with one out to begin the ending for the game. She got the bunt down in the sixth and her teammates began ripping the softball.
“We struggled at the plate early against her (Nevada’s Alex Van Dam). We finally began attacking the pitches at the end but she (Van Dam) pitched a good game,” said Mallory Grove, PCM’s first-year head coach.
Senior Kelsey Townsend ripped her second double of the night to the left-field corner and Shelby Palm connected for an RBI single. Nevada tried to get the ball home but Townsend followed Van Veen in to score on the play and Palm ended up at third base.
Gilson, who along with Van Veen went 3-for-3 on the night, drove in her third run of the game with a double to left field. Edwards singled and Kayla Jennings drew a walk to load the bases with Mustangs.
Emily Hugen laced a two-run single to center field. On the throw home, the Mustang base runners ended up and third and second. Senior shortstop Kaitlyn Wilkie’s sacrifice fly was deep enough to plate a run and move Hugen to third base.
Jennafer Uitermarkt needed to come up with a hit to drive in the final run. The Mustangs could close the game out by the 10-run rule. Uitermarkt smacked a single to bring Hugen home and complete the Mustangs 11-1 win.
Edwards limited the Cubs to four hits in six innings of work. She struck out five.
“My side drop ball was working mostly tonight. They went for the high (pitches) which helped me out a little bit tonight,” Edwards said of her job from the circle. “This was a big win for us. As a freshman we almost made it to state, as a senior you want to get to state.”
Edwards said the Mustangs are looking forward to taking on North Polk, which defeated Roland-Story Tuesday 11-5, in Friday’s semifinal game at Alleman. She said they aren’t looking past North Polk but would like a shot at East Marshal in the final.
“But North Polk is first and we’re going to concentrate on Friday’s game,” Edwards said.
Gilson had two singles and a double. Townsend doubled twice and Edwards hit two singles. Hitting a single each were Palm, Hugen and Uitermarkt.
“This is a big deal for us,” Palm said of Tuesday’s regional game win. “We really want state this year with our new coaches.”
PCM scored a run in the first on a double by Townsend, a fielder’s choice by Palm and a Gilson single. The Mustangs pushed two runs across in the second when Van Veen singled, Palm reached on an error and Van Veen scored ahead of a throw to the plate. Gilson drove in a run with another base hit.
“We’re very excited that we won this game. The girls came into tonight’s contest intense and ready to go,” Grove said. “We have to go into our next game concentrating on hitting the ball well and sticking with our defensive plays.”
PCM (19-14) plays North Polk at 7 p.m. Friday in Alleman. In the other two regional games Tuesday, South Tama edged Union 1-0 and East Marshall beat Gilbert 11-3. South Tama plays East Marshall at 7 p.m. Friday in LeGrand.
The Class 3A, Region 7 championship game is Monday at 7 p.m. in State Center.