Newbies coming together for No. 4 Collins-Maxwell: Spartan softball team moves to 6-0
It's been less than two weeks since the start of the 2021 high school softball season and the newbies are already coming through for Collins-Maxwell.
The Spartans entered the season needing to replace six senior starters including Division 1 pitcher Mikayla Houge — now pitching for Virginia. Those players were the backbone of a team that made the last three Class 1A state championship games and won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.
But so far in 2021 Collins-Maxwell hasn't missed a beat. The Spartans are ranked fourth in 1A and they moved to 5-0 June 3 with a 12-0 victory over Colo-NECO in five innings at McCallsburg.
"I like what I'm seeing," Collins-Maxwell head coach Troy Houge said. "Our defense is looking great and the hitting I know will come sooner or later like tonight where it came later in the game, but it came."
Two players stepping into new roles this season, outfielder Avery Fricke and first baseman Kenzi Wierson, came up big in the win over Colo-NESCO.
Fricke, who courtesy ran for Mikayla Houge the last two years, has been inserted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order behind first-team all-state speed demon Alexis Houge. She has big shoes to fill following two outstanding players that hit behind Houge over the last three seasons in Katie Camp and Emma Kahler.
On Thursday Colo-NESCO pitched around Alexis all game — walking her three times. Fricke capitalized on the opportunities she was given, hitting a two-run single in the third inning and later sending Houge home after reaching on an error.
"It's a lot of pressure, especially in a situation when she (Alexis Houge) is on third and you've got to get her something so she can score," Fricke said. "I was honestly was really nervous coming up to varsity because I didn't know how different it would be (from JV) and I knew there was going to be a lot more pressure. But I'm feeling pretty comfortable in my spot as of right now so hopefully we can keep having success."
Wierson is ninth in the batting order. Against Colo-NESCO she provided the spark Collins-Maxwell used to get from Kahler then Trinity Stover at the bottom of the order.
Wierson ignited Collins-Maxwell's four-run third inning against the Royals with a leadoff single. She also singled in two runs during the Spartans' big seven-run fifth inning.
"I knew I had to take my position and show that I was the one for that spot," Wierson said. "I need to be the speed in front of Lexi and Avery."
Sophomore catcher Marissa Boege started the season 6-for-6 at the plate over Collins-Maxwell's first two games. She walked twice and reached on an error against Colo-NESCO.
The new Spartan starters have been steady defensively as well. They didn't have an error against Colo-NESCO.
Their efforts have helped freshman Erica Houge take over the starting pitching role from her big sister without missing a beat. The youngest Houge was thrilled with the play of Wierson and Fricke on Thursday.
"Kenzi's bat has been on fire, so that really helps," Houge said. "Avery steals every base, so that always helps."
Houge tossed a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts against Colo-NESCO. She had 16 strikeouts in the team's previous game, a 14-3 win over GMG June 2.
The Royals were without four starters against GMG.
Wierson, Fricke, veteran third baseman Reagan Franzen and outfielder Isabelle Hill were playing in the girls' soccer regional semifinals for Central Iowa United. The Spartans still had no trouble prevailing against the Wolverines, a great sign for such an inexperienced team.
"Coming off of two state championships there's a lot of pressure on us," Fricke said. "But I think we're doing great and we have a chance to go back to state."
Collins-Maxwell followed up its win over Colo-NESCO by complete a season sweep of rival Baxter with a 17-3 victory over the Bolts in four innings at Baxter.
The Spartans scored at least three runs in each of the first four innings to put the Bolts to bed early and improve to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the Iowa Star Conference South Division.
Collins-Maxwell had 10 hits in the win. Boege hit three doubles and drove in four runs, Franzen went 2-for-2 with two walks, four runs two RBIs and four steals and Erica Houge smacked her first home run and knocked in two runs. Alexis Houge swiped six bases and finished 1-for-1 with three walks and four runs, Fricke was 1-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs, Wierson went 1-for-3 with one run and RBI apiece and Sofie Wattonville singled, walked twice and scored.
Erica Houge gave up two earned runs on one hit and struck out four with no walks in two innings as the winning pitcher. Franzen allowed one run one hit and walk apiece with one strikeout in two innings of relief.
In Collins-Maxwell's win over GMG the Spartans led 3-1 after four innings then broke the game open with six runs in the fifth.
Erica Houge didn’t walk a batter and she only gave up two hits to go along with her huge strikeout total as the winning pitcher against GMG. Houge also was 3-for-3 with three runs, steals and RBIs apiece, her older sister was 3-for-5 with two doubles, two steals, three runs and an RBI and Boege went 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
Mary Staudt went 1-for-3 with two runs, Vivian Kahler doubled, scored and drove in a run and Wattonville singled once.
Collins-Maxwell opened the week with a 12-0 victory over North Tama in four innings at Collins. The Spartans scored seven runs over the first three innings the plated five in the fourth to end the game early.
Fricke and Franzen were both 3-for-3 against North Tama. Fricke also accounted for three runs, two RBIs and a steal and Franzen had a double and two runs and RBIs apiece.
Wierson went 2-for-3 with a double, run and two RBIs, Alexis Houge finished 1-for-3 with a walk, run and steal and Hill went 1-for-2 with two runs. Erica Houge fired a no-hitter and struck out seven with no walks as the winning pitcher.