COLLINS — The first home run erased Collins-Maxwell/Baxter’s lead. The second home run dashed the Raiders’ hopes of ending Class 3A’s longest winning streak.
Back-to-back, first-pitch homers in the top of the seventh inning Friday night highlighted East Marshall’s four-inning comeback. The end result was what CMB players described as a “learning experience” and an 8-6 loss to Class 3A’s third-ranked team.
“It was a real heartbreaker for us,” CMB senior first baseman Abbie Haupert said. “We really thought we had it at the end and after those two home runs, we kind of felt a letdown and didn’t think we could come back ... We tried our best to get back in the game, but it didn’t work out for us.”
Haupert helped CMB build a 6-0 lead that slowly shriveled away as the game progressed and then quickly disappeared with two powerful swings. East Marshall’s Bobbi Amendt and Ashley Allen both homered off CMB’s Heather Jessen with one out in the seventh, preventing the Raiders (7-10) from ending what is now a 14-game winning streak for the Mustangs (19-3).
CMB looked like a serious threat to end that streak Friday. Haupert and Abbey Appelgate both contributed two-RBI singles in a third inning in which the Raiders sent 10 batters to the plate and scored all of their runs.
That came after East Marshall pitcher Mariah Fritz struck out four of CMB’s first eight batters in the first two innings.
“I think we finally realized that we can hit her and she’s not overpowering by much,” Appelgate said. “Once everyone got on that bandwagon and got the confidence in themselves, we started hitting the ball.”
Haupert added that the six-run third inning created a feeling of being “on cloud nine at that point, which might have hurt us a little bit.”
If it did, it showed in the field. Outfield errors on fly balls in the fourth and sixth innings resulted in two runs for East Marshall. Sandwiched between those was a three-run fifth inning for the Mustangs.
CMB had a chance to increase its lead in the fifth when the Raiders loaded the bases with one out. But Fritz, who entered the game tied for the second-most strikeouts (128) in class 3A, struckout Mackenzie Schmitz and Taylor Ross to end the inning.
“That’s where a great pitcher made great pitches against us,” CMB head coach Troy Houge said.
Those events sent CMB to the seventh inning clinging to a 6-5 lead.
Jessen had only given up one extra-base hit to that point in performance that drew praise from her head coach. She threw all seven innings and kept the Raiders in the game for most of the evening despite facing an East Marshall club that has a team batting average (.354) 100 points higher than CMB’s.
“She pitched well enough to win the game. I’d disregard those two home runs,” Houge said. “I was really proud of the way she threw against a really tough hitting team and she had them on the ropes.”
Like with his review of Jessen, Houge remained upbeat and optimistic about his team’s play against a more experienced East Marshall squad. He dwelled on the positives, like the Raiders’ seven hits off Fritz, the third-most East Marshall’s 15-game winner has allowed this season.
“It’s all about gearing up for the postseason and I think tonight we took a big step towards the postseason because now we’ve shown we can battle with these great teams that have great pitching and are highly ranked,” Houge said.
“Now we just need to continue to grow. Sometimes as a young team, we’ll come out and [lose] and then we’ll go out and struggle the next game and not play as hard. Now we have to continue to show what we’re capable of.”