ACKLEY - It wasn't expected, but no one on AGWSR's softball team is really surprised when Ashley Sicard does something special.
Sicard was at it again Friday during the Cougars' Class 2A Region 3 semifinal game against Aplington-Parkersburg. The sophomore was her usual dominant self in the circle with eight strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
The difference against the Falcons was her bat though as she connected on three homers and tallied seven RBIs in the 11-0, five-inning victory.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
AGWSR senior catcher Ella Frazier, right, hugs sophomore Ashley Sicard after the Cougars’ 11-0 win over Aplington-Parkersburg in a Class 2A regional semifinal on Friday. Sicard hit three home runs and had seven RBIs at the plate while striking out eight in a two-hit pitching performance in the five-inning victory.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
AGWSR junior Morgan Rose, left, tags out Aplington-Parkersburg’s Sidney Haren on her way to first base Friday during a Class 2A regional semifinal in Ackley. The No. 8 Cougars advanced to Monday’s regional final after an 11-0 win.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
"The pitches she gave me are the ones I like to hit, and the ones I like to cream," said Sicard, who came into the game with three home runs on the season. "They were just inside middle pitches. I wasn't even expecting to hit one. Tonight was just a fluke."
The win sends the Cougars to the regional final where they will take on Denver at 7 p.m. Monday in Waverly. The Cyclones upset No. 7 Sumner-Fredericksburg, 6-4, on Friday night.
AGWSR has now won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11. The loss by the Falcons ended their five-game win streak. Aplington-Parkersburg also won 10 of its last 12 games coming into Friday, including a 3-0 win over No. 10 BCLUW.
Sicard, who went over 200 strikeouts for the season in the quarterfinal win over Nashua-Plainfield, improved her record in the circle to 26-4. There is not much more she can do in there that will surprise anyone.
But the three home runs and 4-for-4 performance at the plate was unexpected from her two coaches.
"It was unexpected, but not completely surprising," AGWSR co-coach Scott O'Brien said.
Sicard's first blast came with one out in the third inning. Before that though, the Cougars plated a run in the first inning after Olivia Ingledue singled and stole second. Morgan Rose's bloop single put runners on the corners and Ingledue scored on Sicard's first RBI.
The Cougars went down in order in the second, but plated four runs in the third. The first one came on Sicard's solo blast, but AGWSR (26-7) also got doubles from Hannah Johnson, Madison Fryslie and Marissa Horner in the inning. Fryslie's made it 3-0, while Horner's plated both Marissa Roberts and Fryslie to give the Cougars a 5-0 advantage.
"When we saw the wind blowing out, we knew it was to our advantage," AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake said. "We usually struggle with the slower pitchers. We stressed being patient and waiting for their pitches. We wanted to swing at a pitch they could turn on."
The Cougars did plenty of turning.
The fourth inning resulted in three more runs. Ingledue singled to start the frame and then Rose reached with a walk. Sicard then pushed the lead to 8-0 with a line drive three-run shot over the left-field fence.
The game ended early in the fifth after Sicard's two-out, two-run blast made it 11-0. It was her sixth homer of the season.
Sicard's first home run clanked off the scoreboard in left-center field, which sits about 10-15 yards past the fence, and the walk-off bomb went about as far. O'Brien said the first one would have gone about 245-250 feet had it not been stopped by the scoreboard.
"I was just mind-blown," Sicard said about the Falcons' decision to give her something to hit. "I thought she would throw four in the dirt. That was just crazy. I was shocked at my first one. My teammates said it went over the scoreboard."
When Sicard wasn't hitting home runs at the plate, she was striking out Falcons from the circle. She had no hitter through four innings and retired five of the first six batters she faced by strikeout. One strikeout in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings gave her eight for the game. The only hits came on a line-drive base hit by Haleigh Hempen and an infield single from Laura Toben. Both hits came with two outs in the fifth. The only other base runner - Bailie Schipper - reached on an error in the fourth inning.
"I just don't think they have seen this kind of pitcher," Drake said.
The Falcons appeared to have drawn first blood in the first inning when Bailie Schipper reached base despite striking out. A throwing error by AGWSR catcher Ella Frazier sent the ball all the way to the fence in right field and Schipper trotted all the way around for an early run.
However, the umpires ruled that strike three was actually a foul ball and Schipper was forced back to the plate with no damage done and still two strikes against her.
"You just never know," O'Brien said when asked if that call impacted the game. "That would have given them a spark. I am not sure how that would have factored into the game. It would have given them an emotional lift but in the long run I don't think it would have changed the outcome any way, shape or form.
"They were way behind Ashley all night. I think they were going to struggle to move the ball around against her."
Ingledue had two singles and scored two runs for the Cougars in the win. Rose singled, walked and scored twice, while Horner added two hits and two RBIs as well. Fryslie also doubled, walked and scored once.
Bradi Yost (16-9) started in the circle for the Falcons and took the loss after allowing eight runs on 12 hits. She was taken out briefly in the fourth inning but returned to the game after Raechal Campbell did not record an out while also serving up Sicard's second homer.
Denver upset No. 10 BCLUW, 2-1, in eight innings last year to advance to the state tournament. The Cyclones will try to play spoiler once again when they take on the Cougars at Waverly High School on Monday.
"We know their top five hitters are very solid," O'Brien said. "They graduated their pitcher from last year. This year's pitcher is younger but not much stronger than the one we saw tonight."
Drake added, "We know we are going to have to play well defensively and Ashley will have to keep the ball down."
Aplington-Parkersburg lost to Denver twice during the regular season. The Cyclones beat the Falcons 6-1 in Denver and then won 8-2 in Parkersburg. The Cyclones come into the game with a 16-8 record but have won 11 of their last 12. The lone loss was a 5-0 defeat against Class 3A No. 4 East Marshall. ... Denver has two players - Bailey Victoria and Lexi Roeding - who are hitting better than .530 on the season. Taylor Siech also is hitting .449 with three home runs. No. 1 pitcher Jayden Wolter has thrown all but eight innings this season in the circle and is 16-7 with an ERA of 2.58. ... The Cyclones are 2-1 against NICL West opponents, beating South Tama and Grundy Center. Other common opponents include No. 11 Jesup, which beat Denver 3-0. AGWSR beat Jesup 11-0. ... Sicard now has 214 strikeouts on the year.