FORT DODGE - When in need of a base hit at the state softball tournament, No. 1 Collins-Maxwell turns to Hannah Caple.
Caple, who had the winning hit in last year’s Class 1A state championship game, came up with a clutch two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning of Collins-Maxwell’s 4-0 victory over Gehlen Catholic in the 1A state quarterfinals on Monday at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“Hannah had been struggling just a little bit in the last few weeks,” Collins-Maxwell head coach Troy Houge said. “To see her get going, that’s going to be huge.”
Caple went up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with Collins-Maxwell holding on to a 2-0 lead. The Spartans had runners on second and third with just one out, but had endured tough luck getting runners home, stranding 10 up to that point.
Gehlen Catholic’s Rylee Schnepf fired one in the zone and Caple got a hold of it, sending a rocket liner to right field. The hit scored Emma Kahler and courtesy runner Avery Fricke.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, so I go up there like it’s any other at-bat,” Caple said. “I feel if you put too much pressure on yourself you don’t play well. (The lead) was only two runs and you never know what’s going to happen, so getting those extra two runs gets a four-run lead for Mikayla (Houge). Usually our goal is three runs for Mikayla.”
With Houge on the mound, the four-run lead essentially iced the game.
Houge gave up a one-out double to the Jays’ Sydney Livermore in the top of the seventh. But she but forced the next two batters to fly out to extend her scoreless-inning streak at the state tournament to an amazing 32 innings, dating back to her freshman year as a part of Collins-Maxwell-Baxter.
Houge tossed a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Her competitive nature was on full display in the fifth and sixth innings after Gehlen Catholic had started to put the ball in play.
The Jays got their first hit in the fourth inning, then Addison Weber reached on a bunt single to lead off the top of the fifth. Chloe Bunkers sacrificed Weber to second, but Houge retired the next two batters on strikes with a lethal high fastball.
In the sixth inning, Houge fanned the first two batters she faced, then forced Alyssa Kolbeck to fly out to center field, with Trinity Stover making a great diving catch for the out.
“My mentality is if runners get on and they start getting a piece of it — I’ve just got to find an extra gear,” Mikayla Houge said. “You’ve just got to do whatever you can to help your team not give up any runs. I love those situations and I know that I can succeed in them.”
Collins-Maxwell looked as if it would blow the game open after scoring one run in each of the first two innings.
In the bottom of the first, Alexis Houge drew a leadoff walk, stole second, went to third on an errant throw from Weber trying to pick her off at second, then made her way home on a bunt by Kahler.
In the second inning Brailyn Tankersley led off with a walk, and courtesy runner Carrie Baldwin scored after two Gehlen Catholic errors.
The Spartans finished with seven hits. Ella Kahler was 2-for-3 with a double, Caple finished 2-for-4 and Reagan Franzen joined Mikayla Houge and Emma Kahler in picking up one hit.
Alexis Houge walked three times and stole two bases. Emma Kahler, Fricke and Olivia Pasquariello also had two steals apiece.
The victory put Collins-Maxwell at 26-1 heading into the state semifinals. Gehlen Catholic fell to 21-10.
Schnepf walked 10 batters and struck out five in six innings as the losing pitcher for Gehlen Catholic. Katie Peters joined Livermore and Weber in picking up a hit for the Jays.
Collins-Maxwell 4, Gehlen Catholic 0
GC 000 000 0 - 0 3 5
CM 110 002 X - 4 7 0
GC: Rylee Schnepf and Addison Weber.
CM: Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple.
2B: GC - Sydney Livermore. CM - Ella Kahler.