HUXLEY – For four innings, Collins-Maxwell-Baxter made No. 10 Ballard sweat it out June 26 in Huxley, but the Bombers showed why they’re a top Class 4A team with a late surge to pull off a 7-0 non-conference win over the Raiders.
Ballard took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
The off-speed pitching of Heather Jessen and quality defensive play by the Raiders had kept the Bombers at bay up to this point. In the bottom of the third, Ballard’s Ellie Godwin reached on an error and scored on a Gabbie Scherle grounder for the game’s only run to that point.
But in the fifth inning sophomore Olivia Hall sparked a four-run surge to give the Bombers some breathing room.
Hall led off the bottom of the fifth by ripping a rocket liner off Jessen to the gap in left-center field. The ball stayed high enough to clear the fence and give Ballard a 2-0 lead.
"It was solid," Hall said of her solo blast. "It felt really good."
Ballard caught a break on its next at-bat, as Godwin reached when CMB left fielder Megan Ritter slipped on grass wet from several hours of rain before the game.
"If not for the field conditions out there, Megan catches that ball and they’re probably not going to score four runs," CMB head coach Troy Houge said. "We are out of there with maybe a couple of runs, so that makes a huge difference. But there was nothing Megan could do – that’s just field conditions."
Annie Stolte followed Godwin and lined to third for Ballard’s first out, but Scherle was safe on a bunt single to put runners on the corners. Brooke Mallon then singled in Godwin and Kenzie Ihle followed with an RBI double.
"Once one of us starts hitting, we all start hitting," Hall said. "It’s nice that we build off of each other like that."
Alex Petersen drove in Ballard’s final run of the inning when she grounded out, but CMB had an errant throw to second on the play.
Ihle worked around a two-out infield hit by CMB’s Taylor Ross in the top of the sixth, then Ballard tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.
Mallon drove in both runs with a single after Hall and Scherle both singled and Godwin drew a walk to load the bases.
Ihle ended up limiting CMB to two hits. She struck out seven and walked three in seven innings to earn the shutout win one night after getting a huge Raccoon River Conference victory over No. 2 Carlisle.
"After last night, I feel really good about my pitching," Ihle said. "My defense is playing really well too, so that makes it easier."
Mallon ended up 2-for-4 with three RBI; Scherle was 2-for-3 with a run, steal and RBI; Hall was 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI; Ellen Huxford also went 2-for-3 and Godwin scored three times for Ballard on offense. Ihle ended up 1-for-4 with an RBI and courtesy runner Jenna Moody scored once for the Bombers, who improved to 19-5 with the victory.
CMB dropped to 12-12 with the loss. The Raiders had just lost a 2-1 heartbreaker in Heart of Iowa Conference play to conference leader Greene County the night before, and six days earlier they had a close call with another rated power – losing 8-6 to an East Marshall squad ranked second in 3A.
"I told the girls, ‘we’ve played this team three years now or whatever and we’ve never gone seven innings with them,"’ Houge said. "They’re a great team and their pitcher is really good, but tonight we battled and made her work hard. I was proud of the way the girls battled."
"We’re playing good ball right now," Houge added. "We gave East Marshall all they could handle, we were with this team for four innings and they’re a tough 4A school and Greene County is at the top of the conference and we were right with them. In between all those games, we won five in a row. We’re coming together and I feel pretty good about being .500 with the competition we’re playing."
Jessen gave up six earned runs on nine hits with one strikeout and walk apiece in six innings. Ritter and Ross both singled once for CMB’s only hits and Payge Jurgens, Abbey Appelgate and Veronica Condon each drew a walk for the Raiders.
Ballard 7, CMB 0
CMB 000 000 0 – 0 2 3
B 001 042 X – 7 9 0
CMB: Heather Jessen and Abbey Appelgate
B: Kenzie Ihle and Brooke Mallon
2B: B – Ihle
HR: B – Olivia Hall