A year in the making
Marshalltown softball team beats rival Ames for first win in more than a year
This had been a long time in the making — three hundred and sixty-seven days, to be exact.
The Marshalltown High School softball team snapped a 19-game losing streak dating back to last season by beating Ames in the first game of Monday’s marathon doubleheader at the MHS diamond.
The Bobcats (1-13) broke through in the win column for the first time since June 27, 2019, by beating their rival Little Cyclones 2-1 in the opening game of what would eventually become a wacky 5-hour twinbill between CIML schools.
Long after the first game ended — approximately three and a half hours later — the two teams wrapped up a 16-4 nightcap that was temporarily ended after six innings by umpires who said that Ames’ 12-4 lead satisfied the mercy rule.
After the umpires conferred, they brought both teams back out onto the field to play one final inning that saw the Little Cyclones expand their final margin of victory to 16-4.
In the end, it all seemed worth it for Marshalltown’s first win in a really long time.
“It feels good, believe me,” said MHS head coach Jim Palmer. “I’m so happy, the girls played in a tight contest the whole way through. It was fun stress.”
Ames (3-5) jumped out to the early lead in Game 1 as Ireland Buss singled, took second on a wild pitch and stole third altogether, and then scored on a wild pitch. But MHS junior left-handed pitcher Kailee Pollard regained her composure and pitched particularly well the rest of the game, allowing only four more hits while also contributing on offense.
The Bobcats broke through for the tying and go-ahead runs in the third inning. Erica Johnson reached on a bad-hop single with one out, and Madi Finch reached on a throwing error that moved both runners into scoring position.
Pollard grounded out to the right side to plate Johnson, and Paige Wertzberger followed with an RBI single to left field to give Marshalltown the lead. Kyra Feldman followed with a single, but Ames escaped further damage when Gabby Himes’ hard-hit liner to right field was caught.
Marshalltown managed only two more hits the rest of the way, but its error-free defense was what Pollard needed more. Ames couldn’t couple its hits together and not until the seventh inning did the Little Cyclones pose their greatest threat at a comeback.
With one out, Pollard hit pinch-hitter Ali Frandsen with a pitch, and after a flyout Ellie Lynch singled to right field and advanced to second when the throw chased Frandsen into third. With two runners in scoring position, Pollard got Buss to ground back to the pitcher’s circle for the final out of the game.
Not since beating Urbandale 5-3 more than one year ago had the Bobcats been able to avoid batting in the bottom of the seventh inning on their own diamond.
“I was glad to see us just really fight,” Palmer said. “We played a really clean game, that’s what’s important. Kailee was in control — she lost it for a little bit but she got it right back. In a tight game like that you need to be mentally focused.”
Pollard scattered five hits, three walks and one hit batter over seven innings for the victory, striking out three. Himes had two of Marshalltown’s six hits off Karlie Hill, who struck out three and walked one in a hard-luck loss.
The nightcap got off to a Bobcat-friendly start after three-straight two-out walks from Jewels Buss allowed Marshalltown to load the bases before Himes’ fly ball to center was dropped. A subsequent throwing error led to all three runners scoring, giving MHS a 3-0 lead.
In search of their first doubleheader sweep since taking two from Des Moines North on June 6, 2019, the Bobcats couldn’t sustain the momentum. Ames dug in against sophomore right-hander Avery Mull and got to her in the top of the fourth with four hits, including three-straight two-out doubles that drove in all five runs as the Little Cyclones snared a 6-3 lead.
MHS freshman Ava Augustine didn’t fare much better, allowing three of the four batters she faced to reach safely, and Mull returned to try and get out of the bases-loaded jam. A wild pitch spoiled that chance, and Ames piled on three runs to take a 9-3 lead.
The Bobcats got one back when Finch reached with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth, took second on a wild pitch, advanced a Pollard groundout and scored on Wertzberger’s single to left.
But the Little Cyclones kept piling on, putting up three more runs in the sixth and then four more tallies in the top of the seventh after a brief respite for both teams. Most of the fans had left the bleachers by the time the umpires returned to call the players back onto the field.
Ames pounded out 16 hits in the second game, with six of them going for extra bases. Lynch finished 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs, while Frandsen finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
Mull totaled 5 2/3 innings pitched and got the loss, allowing nine hits and nine earned runs with five walks and three strikeouts. Augustine surrendered three runs — two earned — on one hit and two walks, getting her lone out on strikes, while Khloe Shipley allowed four runs — two earned — on six hits in the top of the seventh.
Finch and Mull both had two hits to lead Marshalltown offensively in the second game.
Lost momentarily in all the late-game confusion was the Bobcats’ first win, coming against the same team that eliminated Marshalltown from Class 5A regional play last summer.
“It feels awesome,” smiled Palmer, an MHS graduate. “To be honest, I’m not a fan of the black and orange, it’s always been a rivalry for me.”
The Bobcats, who lost their July 6 doubleheader at Des Moines Lincoln due to three of that team’s players testing positive for COVID-19, return to action on Wednesday with a twinbill at Des Moines East. MHS hosts Roosevelt for two games on Thursday night.
Marshalltown 2, Ames 1
AMES 100 000 0 — 1 5 3
MHS 002 000 X — 2 6 0
Karlie Hill and Kyra Anderson; Kailee Pollard and Emma McWherter. W–Pollard. L–Hill. 2B–AMES: Ireland Buss. LOB–AMES 7, MHS 7.
Ames 16, Marshalltown 4
AMES 001 533 4 — 16 16 2
MHS 300 010 0 — 4 6 4
Jewels Buss and Izzy Rogers; Avery Mull, Ava Augustine (5), Mull (5), Khloe Shipley (7) and McWherter. W–Buss. L–Mull. 2B–AMES: Ellie Lynch, J. Buss, Rogers. 3B–AMES: Rogers, Olivia Smalley. HR–AMES: Lynch. LOB–AMES 9, MHS 7.