Despite a split against Central Iowa Conference Northern Division rival Ames on Monday, the Marshalltown softball team feels like it's starting to hit its stride.
Winners of three games this weekend in Iowa City, the Bobcats opened the doubleheader with a 4-3 loss but rallied in the nightcap with 13 hits and a 6-3 victory at the MHS diamond.
"We are becoming more comfortable and starting to develop into the team we want to be," MHS coach Jeff Lamb said. "These seniors are starting to come along. We are in a pretty good spot right now. I am happy with where things are at."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown senior Morgan Bellile comes up with the catch at the fence in right field during the opener of a doubleheader against Ames Monday night at the MHS diamond.
The Bobcats have won four of their last five and are now 15-19 on the season. The victory in game two improved their division record to 2-8, while Ames (16-17) stayed even at 5-5.
Marshalltown peaked at the right time last year when it advanced to its first-ever state softball tournament.
Senior Taylor Wagner, an all-state catcher on that team a year ago, feels like this year's Bobcats are definitely making a move toward another strong postseason run. The senior-led squad isn't going to quit until the final outs are made.
"We are definitely a second-half team," said Wagner, who had two hits and scored twice in the game two win. "We have played every good team well and we are scrappy. We have way too much pride to give up. We are a senior-led team, and I think we are all realizing that the end is near. Nobody wants to be that last out. That can only help us come tournament time."
The Bobcats got down early in the opener and trailed 4-0 through five innings. A three-run sixth inning that was aided by four Ames errors got the Bobcats back in the game, but it wasn't enough after they went down in order in the seventh against Ames starter Taylor Schumacher (6-6).
Schumacher allowed just four hits and hit Emily DeVenney with two outs to start the Bobcats' rally in the sixth. Schumacher took advantage of a large strike zone by fanning nine and walking none.
"I don't like playing this card, but we had trouble with the strike zone," said Wagner. "It was to the point where if we didn't swing we assumed it was going to be called a strike no matter what. That was frustrating, but she did keep us off balance with her change up."
The Little Cyclones out-hit the Bobcats 10-4 in game one, but Marshalltown tallied 13 hits in the game two win.
Six of those hits came in the four-run fourth inning that featured singles by Wagner, Cassidy Blackford, Lauren Mazour, Morgan Bellile, Kaley Mead and Madi Bellile. Mazour's base hit drove in Wagner and then Morgan Bellile's two-run single plated Quinn Goodman and pinch runner Kari Smith. Madi Bellile's hit then scored her twin sister Morgan to make it 6-0. Three of the four runs were scored with two outs.
"Most of our runs were scored with two outs, and that is big for us," Lamb said. "Their first pitcher was keeping us off balance, and the second girl did well too. But when we got down in the count, we didn't give up. We kept fighting."
The Bobcats led 1-0 after the first when Wagner doubled and scored on Blackford's RBI single. Two errors allowed Marshalltown to push the lead to 2-0 in the second inning.
The six runs in the first three innings was enough for Mazour, who twirled a six-hitter.
Hannah Bloch hit a solo home run off Mazour in the second and then doubled and scored in the fourth. Other than that, Mazour was in control of her pitches, pounded the zone and helped secure a big win for her squad.
"I don't know if I can take all the credit," said Mazour, who also had two hits at the plate. "I had a pretty good defense behind me. And it is always easier to hit when there are runners on base. The breaks have to start going our way eventually, and it is always fun to beat Ames."
Jasmine Judge took the loss in the first game for Marshalltown. Pitching with a sore back, the Bobcat freshman allowed 10 hits and four earned runs while striking out three and walking one.
Ames got one in the second as Bloch doubled and scored on an RBI single by Hannah Kutchen.
The three-run fifth inning featured four hits, including RBI singles from Schumacher and Claire Rogers.
"I don't know if we just weren't ready to play or what," Mazour said of getting behind in the opener. "We turned it on there late and had some momentum in the sixth, but it wasn't enough."
The Bobcats suffered their eighth loss this year by three runs or less when they fell in game one by a single tally.
"Most of the losses have been close because we get down early," Lamb said. "There are a lot of different things we need to do. We are coming back in those games. We just can't get all the way back."
The four hits by the Bobcats in game one were recorded by Blackford and Megan Major in the second inning, Goodman in the fifth and Blackford in the sixth. Wagner, Mead, Mazour, Blackford and Madi Bellile all had multiple hits in game two.
Kate Crow also had two hits in the opener and five in the two games for the Little Cyclones. She came into the game hitting a team-best .515 with 18 RBIs, 23 runs, 12 walks and 16 doubles. ... The Little Cyclones are now just 7-11 since beating the Bobcats 10-0 and 7-1 in Ames earlier this season. ... The Bobcats will next host a non-conference game against Class 4A No. 10 Benton at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. After that, they are off until they head to Mason City for a 6 p.m. doubleheader on Monday.