Trojans trip up Wolverines in 5
Sandvick shines for STC before switching sides
GREEN MOUNTAIN — A year from now, South Tama County senior Abby Sandvick will be in the opposite dugout rooting against her alma mater.
On Friday, however, she played a pivotal part in the Trojans’ triumph over the GMG softball team.
Sandvick went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs as South Tama stormed its way to an 11-1, five-inning victory over non-conference neighbor GMG, where Sandvick has already signed on as the Wolverines’ next assistant coach.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure because I wanted to make sure I played good,” said Sandvick. “I didn’t want to have [GMG head coach Kati Barnes] have mixed thoughts of wanting me to coach. I just wanted to make sure I was at my best.”
Sandvick drove in three of South Tama’s first four runs, including an RBI single in the top of the first inning and a two-run double in the third. She scored the last of four runs in the third on a Laurel Upah groundout to make it 5-1 Trojans, and she hustled home all the way from first base on Upah’s bases-clearing double in South Tama’s six-run fourth.
STC (3-19) ended a nine-game losing streak with the 10-run triumph.
“Right now we’re kind of not doing too hot so it was good to get rally on the bats and finally get people on base,” said Sandvick. “We’re actually happy today and playing as a team so that was really good.
“For me it was good to let [GMG] know that I’m not the worst player on the team so I kind of know what to do, so it was good to show my expertise and show them I can do this job.”
Her current head coach, Chelsea Ahrens, agreed.
“She’d be a really good coach,” Ahrens said of Sandvick. “She’s so positive and good with younger kids. She’s empathetic and she’s just really understanding. She’s just kind and really offers advice.
“She’s a great kid, I’m sad to see her go.”
Ahrens was glad to see South Tama’s offense get going, however, after a nine-game losing streak in which the Trojans scored an average of 1.4 runs per game. An alteration of the batting order paid immediate dividends as STC capitalized with its speed at the front of the lineup and it’s most consistent hitters in RBI roles.
Sandvick drove in three runs and Upah plated four, while new leadoff hitter Kayla Heck went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored, and No. 2 hitter Shelby Slaven was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“We’ve been struggling to score runs … so that’s why I tried to switch it up,” said Ahrens. “Kayla did a good job of getting us started right away — she’s an eighth-grader that has a lot of speed.”
Mary Kate Frakes added an RBI single to cap the Trojans’ six-run at-bat in the fourth, and Gwen Upah went 1-for-2 with two runs scored to support Ellenbecker’s one-hitter in the pitching circle.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first half inning, South Tama was unable to keep it. GMG junior Emily Vaughn laced a line-drive double to the right-center field gap and scored all the way from second when Kaylea Duden’s pop-up to shallow left field was dropped.
Ellenbecker then hit Jenna Yilek with the next pitch but got out of the jam with a strikeout, and the Wolverines (2-11) only managed two more baserunners — both on walks — the rest of the way.
“We’ve been working a lot with batting again, trying to focus on the mechanics so we can have solid hits and not pop-ups,” Barnes said. “It’s still kind of a learning process.”
Vaughn’s double was the only hit allowed by Ellenbecker, who struck out six, walked two and hit one. The only GMG run came unearned to the junior pitcher, who also got four ground-ball outs back to the circle.
“I think Ashlynn did really well at mixing things up,” Ahrens said. “I think she’s mad at herself for having two walks or a hit batter, but that’s OK, that’s what competitive people are. I’m proud of her and the work she’s done. She continues to come to the field every day with a positive attitude and she works her tail off and that’s what you need out of a pitcher.”
Yilek reached base in both of her plate appearances, but was called out for interference to end the bottom of the fourth while sprinting between second and third base on Saige Frost’s grounder to shortstop Laurel Upah. Yilek appeared to steer clear of Upah while leaping over the ground ball, but GMG’s only potential rally outside the first inning ended nonetheless.
“It was definitely another learning experience,” said Barnes. “I think the biggest thing we’re telling the girls to work on is to come out playing hard like they did but continue that even through the later innings.”
GMG’s starting lineup featured four eighth-graders, two freshmen, three sophomores and only two juniors. There are no seniors on the Wolverines’ roster.
Eighth-grade pitcher Adelyn Sienknecht allowed seven earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out two.
“They’ve grown a lot and we’ve seen mostly their confidence grow, which is great because they’re realizing that they can do it, they can go up against senior pitchers and make contact,” Barnes said of her youthful roster. “I think we’re seeing their confidence building and their skills as well because they’re hitting the ball and catching and fielding better.”
The game was GMG’s regular-season finale, as the Wolverines head to McCallsburg on Monday for a Class 1A Region 5 opener against Colo-NESCO. South Tama plays Monday at PCM before traveling to face Class 3A No. 4 Williamsburg in their Region 5 quarterfinal on Wednesday night. The Raiders swept STC in their regular-season doubleheader during WaMaC Conference action.
“Tonight was nice to get away from that and we’ve played GMG for five years now,” Ahrens said. “It’s a chance to just take a break, it’s a short trip, not play a doubleheader — it’s just fun to play somebody that’s close, a nice rival.”
South Tama has beaten GMG now six years in a row since the non-conference clash was added to the schedule. Three of the games have been decided by three runs or fewer, while the other three have been mercy-rule triumphs for the Trojans.
Sandvick hopes to help change that trend next summer.
“I just want to come in and really turn us around,” she said. “They obviously have the team bond and I noticed that today, so now it’s just putting those fundamentals together and I just want to help do that and hopefully come back and beat South Tama next year.”
South Tama County 11, GMG 1, 5 innings
At Green Mountain
STC 104 60 — 11 9 1
GMG 100 00 — 1 1 3
Ashlynn Ellenbecker and Jordyn Cremeans; Adelyn Sienknecht and Sydney Vavroch. W–Ellenbecker (3-11). L–Sienknecht. 2B–STC: Abby Sandvick, Laurel Upah; GMG: Emily Vaughn. LOB–STC 3, GMG 4.