ALLEMAN - With an outright conference title on the line and a shorthanded lineup, No. 3 (Class 2A) Collins-Maxwell-Baxter needed senior pitcher Abbey Kahler to bring her ‘A’ game against a tough North Polk squad Monday in Alleman.
CMB entered the game without leadoff hitter Megan Ritter, shortstop Jordynn Wesselink and reserve Sydney Schmidt, who were all gone on a mission trip. Reserve Veronica Condon was also gone on vacation.
But thanks to Kahler and a couple of clutch hits from Katie Camp and Abby Husak, the Raiders got the job done, winning 2-0 to celebrate an outright Heart of Iowa Conference championship in their final season as a program.
“It’s a good way to go out,” Kahler said. “(But) that’s just our first little goal. We’ve still got state. We’re not done yet.”
Kahler was in top form against North Polk. She only gave up three hits — two coming in the first inning — and struck out nine batters with no walks.
“I was honing on my confidence, focusing on each pitch and getting my spin down and movement,” Kahler said. “My slider was a big thing for me that worked well. Every time (head coach Troy Houge) called that pitch, I made sure I focused on my mechanics and everything I needed to do.”
In the bottom of the first, Ellie Owen hit a leadoff double and with one out, Carolyn Steffen singled. Owen tried to race home on Steffen’s hit, but she was thrown out.
Kahler then retired Comet power hitter Rebecca Rimathe on strikes to end the inning with no damage done.
North Polk put one runner on in the fourth inning when Trisha Sporra hit a leadoff single. Steffen sacrificed her over to second, but Kahler was again money when it counted, striking out Rimathe and Maddy Hill for the final outs of the inning.
The best chance for North Polk to score came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Two errors put runners on the corners for the Comets with just one out.
Steffen tried to bunt in Owen from third, but she was tagged out again when Kahler fielded the ball and quickly got it to Hannah Caple behind the plate. Kahler then forced Rimathe to pop up back to her near the third base line for the final out.
“I was a little nervous for sure — I was kind of shaking, to be honest,” Kahler said. “I’m just glad that we pulled through and got it done.”
In the top of the seventh, Husak — who was celebrating her birthday — provided Kahler with a little breathing room. Hannah Caple hit a one-out single and the birthday girl stepped up to the plate and ripped a ball over Comet left fielder Sydney Anderson to score courtesy runner Emma Husak with a big insurance run.
“I knew that I’d been topping the ball all night,” Abby Husak said. “I knew I needed to start lifting it so I can get a line drive. They came in because they thought I was going to slap and it just felt good. I couldn’t do it without runners on.”
Abby took third on the play, then turned to the Raider dugout and cheered loudly after coming up huge on her birthday.
“Softball just pumps me up,” Abby Husak said. “When my teammates and I do the best that we can and succeed, it’s just the best feeling in the world.”
Kahler drove in Camp for CMB’s first run in the top of the first inning. Camp reached on a one-out single and Kahler singled her home.
Kahler and Camp each finished with two base hits and Abby Husak and Caple had one apiece for the Raiders, who improved to 24-5 overall and 14-1 in the HOIC.
North Polk dropped to 16-11 overall and 10-4 in the conference.
“(Kahler) did throw well (and) we did chase some pitches,” North Polk head softball coach Lynnette Foster said. “We just need to be more disciplined at the plate and actually execute our bunt correctly. We win ball games when we execute correctly.”
Comet hurler Sophie Swygman did a great job keeping North Polk close despite the lack of offensive production. Swygman held CMB to six hits and she struck out three with no walks in seven innings.
“Sophie’s been doing a really good job these last couple weeks,” Foster said. “She’s had some back problems and we’re trying to work through that. I’m very proud of how she’s coming along.”
The double by Owen and the singles by Steffen and Sporra accounted for the only Comet hits off Kahler.
CMB 2, North Polk 0
CMB 100 000 1 - 2 6 2
NP 000 000 0 - 0 3 1
CMB: Abbey Kahler and Hannah Caple.
NP: Sophie Swygman and Trisha Sporra.
2B: CMB - Abby Husak. NP - Ellie Owen.