Comets suffer walk-off heartbreak at Columbus
WATERLOO — Both the humidity and the tension were thick enough to cut with a knife on Monday at Deviney Waterburg Field, as the No. 12 BCLUW softball team battled No. 5 Waterloo Columbus well into the night in an extremely tight contest with the winner moving onto the state softball tournament.
After 10 scoreless innings from both squads, Waterloo Columbus managed to finally capitalize off of some base runners as Emily Mollenhoff knocked in a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 11th to secure a 1-0 victory in the Class 2A Region 3 championship game.
After talking with his clearly devastated Comets squad, who just missed out on a second-straight trip to State, head coach David Lee said the loss came down to his team’s inability to knock in hits from Waterloo Columbus (34-5) starting pitcher Kayla Sproul.
“We just couldn’t get it figured out. I think we were trying too hard maybe,” Lee said. “I thought we laid off the bad pitches there after the first few innings pretty well but we just couldn’t get the bat solid on anything she had. We tried taking some first pitches but then we would chase a bad second pitch and now we are in a hole and now we are getting the end of the bat on it. We just couldn’t drive the ball.”
Sproul pitched all 11 innings for the Sailors, only surrendering five hits and striking out four batters. Senior Jordan Beeghly was the only Comet with more than one hit in the game, as she knocked down a two-out single in the seventh and got into scoring position on a double in the 10th. Samantha Ubben and Kate Goecke each recorded the other two hits for BCLUW.
Lee said Mollenhoff’s style of pitching is different than other pitchers his team has faced recently, but he said that is still no excuse for his team’s performance at the plate.
“We just didn’t do a good job offensively and I don’t really know why. It’s hard to prepare for someone like her, someone bringing it with such a change of speed from slow to slower, not hard to slow,” he said. “One or two people can’t take the blame for that because I told them ‘nine of you had a chance to hit the ball and you had a chance four or five times.’ It is just a thing where we couldn’t get anything going offensively, and we have been playing so well against all kinds of pitching. I didn’t think this could happen to us but it did.”
While the bats struggled, that wasn’t the case on the defensive end, as Ubben pitched a fantastic game backed up by some stellar plays from her supporting cast. Ubben went all 10 2/3 innings for the Comets, allowing only eight hits and one run while striking out five and walking one.
Even when the ball was put in play, defensive stalwarts like Leah Yantis, Sara Sharp and Easton Swanson were there to make the out and end any threat the Sailors posed.
“We made some great plays, Easton made a couple of great plays over at short stop,” Lee said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t handle the bunt a little better because we talked about that. We knew they were quick bunting and that they could do that, the ground was just so soft too and it didn’t go anywhere after they bunted. But that didn’t hurt us, they were finally able to put some hits together and at some point in the game that is bound to happen.”
While the taste of this loss will take some time to wash out, Lee said the Comets should be proud of what they accomplished this season. They finish the year at 29-9 while repeating as NICL West Division champions for a second-straight season.
Lee, who returned to the squad at the beginning of last season after a three-year break, said he couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to coach.
“I feel blessed to have been able to coach these girls for the last couple years. It has been a great experience, we’ve had a great two years,” he said. “We’ve won two conference titles and we’ve been in this game twice, with us going all the way to state last year. These kids have had a great last couple years and I am blessed to have been a part of that.”