COLLINS - In the bottom of the fourth inning, with her team leading by a run, Collins-Maxwell’s Trinity Stover played Grand View Christian’s outfield like a fiddle.
Stover came up to the plate with a runner on first and two outs after Olivia Pasquariello reached on a single. Grand View Christian was fully aware that Stover is a slap-hitter with speed, so they brought both their infield and outfield in to play for the short grounder.
As Grand View Christian’s Emma Heffron was ready to deliver a pitch, Stover noticed how the entire Thunder outfield had practically moved into the infield. So instead of going for a simple slap, she put a little extra mustard behind her swing.
Her bat hit the ball and it went sailing over the head of Thunder center fielder Abbey Boggess. The ball rolled to the fence, easily allowing Pasquariello to score all the way from first.
Stover made her way to third base.
“He (Collins-Maxwell head coach Troy Houge) always told us to watch what the defense is doing,” Stover said. “I saw them scooting in, getting ready for a slapper, so I knew it was my time to finally get a big hit out there. I wanted to get that in-park home run, but a triple is pretty good.”
A two-run lead provided more than enough breathing room for Spartan all-state ace Mikayla Houge. She held the Thunder without a hit over the final three innings, finishing with a one-hitter to lead the top-ranked Spartans back to state with a 3-0 victory in the Class 1A regional final.
“We worked really hard to get to where we are right now,” Houge said. “We have another goal to accomplish, so we’re going to stay focused and keep working hard for next week in Fort Dodge.”
After pounding a strong Murray team by a 10-2 score in the semifinals on Friday, Collins-Maxwell was pushed hard by Grand View Christian. But it made no difference to an experienced team that lost only one starter off last year’s state championship team.
“What’s different from last year is this is a grind-it-out team,” Troy Houge said. “This is the way we play. We grind things out and do what we have to do to win.”
That was most evident on defense.
The Grand View Christian batters refused to let Mikayla Houge overpower them. She ended up with only eight strikeouts — half her total from the Murray game.
That forced Collins-Maxwell to make plays in the field. The Spartans did just that.
Grand View Christian’s Sydney Lane led off the game with a double to right field for the only Thunder hit of the game. Lane tried to stretch it into a triple, but Spartan right fielder Ella Kahler gunned her down with a tremendous throw.
In the top of the fifth inning, Alexis Houge made a great stab at shortstop and threw out Grand View Christian’s Sammie Ward at first in the nick of time for the first out of the inning. Spartan catcher Hannah Caple made a nice catch near the fence in foul territory in the top of the seventh inning.
Collins-Maxwell’s second and final error of the game even came on a great play.
Reagan Franzen made a fantastic diving stop at third on a hot grounder hit by Kelly DeMeulanaere, with two outs in the seventh. But she rushed the throw and it sailed wide, allowing DeMeulanaere to reach.
Didn’t matter. Mikayla Houge forced Ward to pop back to her on the mound in the next at-bat to end the game.
“Our defense is underrated,” Troy Houge said. “People don’t think we play good defense because of Mikayla out there. But our defense is stellar. You just don’t get to see it very often because of Mikayla striking people out, but you saw it tonight.”
Offensively, Collins-Maxwell had six hits.
Alexis Houge manufactured the first Spartan run all by herself in the third inning by singling, stealing second, then scoring all the way from there on a bunt by Emma Kahler. Alexis ended up 2-for-3.
“My job is to get on base,” Alexis Houge said. “I know if I get on base — we’re going to score most of the time.”
The last Collins-Maxwell run came in the fourth inning when Ella Kahler got an infield hit and courtesy runner Avery Fricke made her way home after an errant Thunder throw.
Mikayla Houge singled and walked, Pasquariello was 1-for-3 with a run and Franzen and Caple each walked once.
The victory put Collins-Maxwell at 25-1. The Spartans will face off against Gehlen Catholic (21-9) in the 1A state quarterfinals next Monday at 11 a.m. on the Krueger Seeds Diamond at the Rogers Athletic Complex in Fort Dodge.
“It’ll be a little bit different when we get to state this year,” Mikayla Houge said. “We’ll have less nerves and we’ll kind of know what to expect. We know that we can win another state title. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re just ready to take on Fort Dodge.”
Grand View Christian finished 20-10. Heffron had four walks and two strikeouts in six innings as the losing pitcher.
Collins-Maxwell 3, Grand View Christian 0
GVC 000 000 0 - 0 1 3
CM 001 101 X - 3 6 2
GVC: Emma Heffron and Sydney Lane.
CM: Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple.
2B: GVC - Lane.
3B: CM - Trinity Stover.
COLLINS - Alexis Houge quickly erased an unusual mistake by her big sister to spark No. 1 Collins-Maxwell to an impressive 10-2 victory over Murray in the Class 1A regional softball semifinals Friday.
Murray slugger Breianna Klein took advantage of a rare meatball pitch by Collins-Maxwell all-state pitcher Mikayla Houge to belt a solo home run in the first at-bat of the game. Mikayla gave up another hit in the inning, but struck out the side to prevent any more runs from crossing.
Alexis went to the plate to lead off the inning with the full intent of getting her sister off the hook.
Alexis reached on a bunt single and went to second on an errant throw. Emma Kahler sacrificed her to third and big sister drove her home with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“I always have her back,” Alexis Houge said. “If they score a run, I have to do whatever I can for my team to go right back. It motivates me even more.”
That run seemed to relieve any pressure Collins-Maxwell had entering a game against a strong Murray team that was playing for legendary coach Danny Jensen, who is stepping down after a stellar 40-year coaching career.
“Getting that run back really motivated us,” Mikayla Houge said. “We never took our foot off the gas.”
The Spartans scored two more runs in the second inning after the Kahler twins — Ella and Emma — each drove in a run. The Spartans went up 5-1 in the third inning when Olivia Pasquariello blooped a two-run single to center field with two outs.
“I didn’t feel the pressure,” Pasquariello said. “I’ve been working all season — there’s been a ton of runners on and I really just wanted to get them in. It felt really good.”
Pasquariello added another RBI single in the fifth inning — again coming with two outs — to make the score 6-1.
“The first one wasn’t really what I thought I wanted it, (but) it worked — it drove in two runs,” Pasquariello said. “The second one I liked a lot more.”
Murray put up a little bit of a fight in the top of the sixth when Kelli Romero hit a solo homer, Kayla Wookey reached on an error and Kendra Boles was hit by a pitch. But Mikayla struck out the Mustangs’ Michelle McBurney to end the inning with no more damage done.
In the bottom of the sixth, Collins-Maxwell made sure to end any dreams the Mustangs had of coming back. Mikayla singled in two runs, Reagan Franzen singled in a run and the Spartans picked up another run on a passed ball.
Mikayla worked around a one-out triple by Klein in the top of the seventh to close out the victory. Despite not being on top of her game, she still racked up an amazing 16 strikeouts and only gave up four hits.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” Mikayla Houge said. “But we scored enough runs so I didn’t have to work too hard. That’s always nice.”
Collins-Maxwell finished with 10 hits. Alexis was 3-for-4 with three runs, Mikayla went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs and Pasquariello was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
The Spartans (24-1) will play Grand View Christian (20-9) for the right to go to state Monday back in Collins. The game is set to start at 7 p.m.
Murray finished 26-10. Klein was the losing pitcher, striking out five and walking three, going six innings, and she also went 2-for-2 at the plate with two walks.
Collins-Maxwell 10, Murray 2
M 100 001 0 - 2 4 4
CM 122 014 X - 10 10 1
M: Breianna Klein and Kelli Romero.
CM: Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple.
2B: CM - Houge.
3B: M - Klein.
HR: M - Klein, Romero.
COLLINS - A huge sixth inning enabled Collins-Maxwell to pull off a decisive 10-0 victory over East Union in the Class 1A regional quarterfinals July 10.
The Spartans, ranked No. 1 in 1A, improved to 23-1 after taking a 4-0 lead through four innings, then pushing six runs across in the sixth to end the game early. Mikayla Houge was phenomenal on the mound, striking out an amazing 15 batters and firing a one-hitter with just one walk.
Collins-Maxwell pounded out 11 hits offensively. Emma Kahler led the way by going 3-for-4 with a triple and double apiece, plus two runs and an RBI, and Houge went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.
Olivia Pasquariello also went 2-for-3 and she tallied one double and two runs. Reagan Franzen doubled, scored and drove in a run; Ella Kahler doubled and picked up an RBI; Brailyn Tankersly finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and Alexis Houge was 1-for-4 with two RBIs and one run and steal apiece.
Mallory Raney was the losing pitcher for East Union. She had five walks and two strikeouts.
Collins-Maxwell 10, East Union 0 (6)
EU 000 000 - 0 1 NA
CM 100 306 - 10 11 NA
EU: Mallory Raney and Kaitlyn Mitchell.
CM: Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple.
2B: CM - Emma Kahler, Reagan Franzen, Ella Kahler, Olivia Pasquariello.
3B: CM - Em. Kahler.
HR: CM - Houge.