DES MOINES — Small ball loaded the bases with Saydel Eagles. A long ball allowed the Eagles to take flight over visiting Newton’s Cardinals Thursday in Class 4A Region 6 action.
The Eagles defeated the Cardinals, 6-0, to advance in regional play and end Newton’s 2014 softball season. The big blow was a grand slam by Saydel senior catcher Mackenzie Miller in the second inning.
“We played pretty well defensively, but didn’t field the small ball in that crucial second inning. The grand slam hurt us,” Newton head coach Ashley Ryan said following the loss. “Take that inning away and it’s a two-run game. Offensively, we showed a little with some base runners then couldn’t execute to score them.”
Saydel used a single to center then two bunts to load the bases in the second inning. Newton senior pitcher Ashton Hoffman recorded a strikeout, but Miller crushed a 1-1 pitch sending the ball out over the left field fence.
The Cardinals didn’t fall apart even after two more Eagle batters reached base in the inning. Lizzie Stock, senior shortstop, went up on her tip-toes to snag a line drive for the second out. Junior third baseman Katie Chisholm threw out the next batter to end the threat.
“Tonight, we brought it (our play) up. It just wasn’t enough,” Hoffman said. Hoffman took the pitching loss, allowing eight hits, walking three and striking out one.
Stock drilled a two-out double to the center field fence in the third inning for Newton. The Cardinals weren’t able to mount their own scoring threat.
Saydel added a run on a walk, a passed ball and two sacrifice fly balls in the fourth. The Eagles produced their final run in the sixth on a two-out rope down the left-field line by pitcher Annika Hofbauer to drive in the run.
Newton stranded six runners in the game. The Cardinals’ biggest threat came in the fifth when sophomore second baseman Fran Lucas worked a one-out walk followed Chisholm delivering a hard line drive off Hofbauer’s leg for an infield hit. With two gone, Stock drew a walk to load the bases, but sophomore center fielder Alex Hutchinson grounded out to end the inning.
The Cardinals finished 9-23 overall. They were 8-12 for fifth in the Little Hawkeye Conference.
Three players competed in their final game for Newton Thursday — Hoffman, Stock and senior first baseman Madison Bagnall. Stock doubled while Hoffman and Chisholm each had a single in the game.“We didn’t have the record we wanted this year, but we had a great team,” Bagnall said. “We built relationships that will grow. They will have a good team next year.”
All three seniors and Coach Ryan agreed on one point — the biggest improvement over the season was the Cardinal defense.
“We cleaned up our defense. At the beginning of the year we were making errors and falling apart,” Bagnall said. “We buckled down and worked as a team to improve. The defense picked up our pitchers and that is a positive for them going into next season.”
Hoffman pointed out that although the season didn’t go the way they wanted, the Cardinals ended the season on a high note, winning three of their final four Little Hawkeye Conference games. She said the defense improved “but our hitting still needs more work.”
“We’ve grown a lot as a team and I’ll never forget these girls,” Stock said. “Our record might not show it, but we improved a lot. We came a long way from the beginning of the season.”
Ryan said Bagnall, Stock and Hoffman will be missed and will be hard to replace.
“They are great individuals. They’ve had huge careers here in Newton from when they started as little girls through high school,” Ryan said. “We’ll miss their leadership — the little things that they did leading by example.”
Ryan said the future of NHS Cardinal softball is bright. She said they suited up a lot of girls this year, plus have several larger classes coming up over the next couple of years.
“Our seniors will be hard to replace. We have some young players who have the potential of filling those positions. We have a solid core of players returning for next year. The girls are there, so that’s good for the program,” Ryan said.