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East edges West to win Rose Fest

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - East Marshall’s Peyton Grabenbauer (1), Morgan Neuroth (4), Ava Bringmann (23) and Rayne McIlrath (9) celebrate after defeating West Marshall 7-5 in 10 innings in the championship game of the Rose Festival Softball Tournament on Saturday night in State Center.

STATE CENTER — The bragging rights of Marshall County softball, for now, belong to the Mustangs.

The Class 2A No. 12 East Marshall softball team spoiled 3A No. 12 West Marshall’s title bid in the finals of the Rose Festival Tournament on Saturday night, topping the Trojans 7-5 in a 10-inning championship thriller for the ages.

Vaeda Bryan’s bases-loaded single with two outs in the top of the 10th inning provided the final deficit after the two ranked Marshall County clubs slugged it out for two and a half hours. East Marshall (18-3) struck first, West Marshall (15-4) returned fire, and eventually the Mustangs made off with the tournament title.

“We’re just fortunate to come out of here with a win,” said East Marshall head coach Jary Hoskey. “It’s nice to win on their field, and we’ve got to come back here. I’ll bet they’ll be ready for us, but I’m happy for our girls.”

The Mustangs marched through an opening-round game over Marshalltown, 14-2 in five innings, while West Marshall walloped Hampton-Dumont-CAL in their opener, 11-0 in five. Both teams carried plenty of momentum into the title bout in anticipation of the showdown that followed.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - West Marshall catcher Riley Randall, left, lunges to tag out East Marshall’s Morgan Neuroth (4) on a play at the plate in the 10th inning of Saturday’s Rose Festival Softball Tournament championship game in State Center.

The fans got one great play after another.

“That’s a lot of fun, that’s a great softball game,” said West Marshall head coach Jake Randall. “That’s kinda what I talked to the kids about: making sure we can come in and compete against them. We haven’t come out on the winning end of a game with them in about seven years, so it’s tough, but we were right there.

“At the end they made some nice hits and put the ball in play and had a nice opportunity. We had an opportunity I thought earlier in the game, but our kids competed and that’s all we ask them to do and I felt like we did that tonight.”

East Marshall was first to the scoreboard, as a second-inning double by Ava Bringmann was followed by an RBI single by Bailey Grant.

The Mustangs tripled their lead on a two-out, two run single by Peyton Grabenbauer in the top of the third. Both runs came unearned to West Marshall freshman pitcher Aubree Greenwood, but they counted just the same.

The brief battle with adversity only seemed to spark West Marshall’s bats, which to that point had been handcuffed by East Marshall senior standout Morgan Neuroth. The Trojans’ No. 9 hitter Riley Randall blooped a two-out single into right for West Marshall’s first hit of the game, and courtesy runner Savanna Davenport advanced when Jenna Randall was walked. Jillian Karsjen followed with an RBI single to right, and Lillian Fischer cleared the bases with a three-run no-doubter over the fence in left.

“Lillian put us back in a great position there,” coach Randall said. “That was a great swing to get momentum back, but after that died down again you’ve got to tip your cap to Morgan. She’s just a competitor.”

The back-and-forth momentum didn’t die down immediately, though. Suddenly trailing 4-3, East Marshall had a counter punch in freshman Ashtyn Wheater’s first home run of the season to tie the score at 4-all.

It didn’t stop there. The Trojans took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth on Riley’s second bloop single of the game. Lily Zahnd led off with a single and advanced to third before coming across for a 5-4 West Marshall lead.

The hits kept coming. East Marshall got even when Neuroth reached on a dropped popup just inside the first base line. Two outs later, courtesy runner Cora Talbert scored on a double by Grabenbauer to draw the score to a 5-all tie.

The next nine at-bats went scoreless. East Marshall left at least two runners stranded on base twice before the 10th inning, and West Marshall missed a golden opportunity in the seventh.

Jenna Randall hit a one-out double and Karsjen slapped a single to shallow right. Jenna didn’t get a good read on the hit and had to stop at third base.

East Marshall opted to walk Fischer to load the bases with one out, and Neuroth responded by striking out the next two batters to escape a potential walk-off win by the Trojans.

“West Marshall’s a well-coached team and obviously they hit the ball really well,” said Hoskey. “Give Morgan credit, she’s probably one of the best pitchers around and one of the best hitters and we’re just happy to have her.

“Greenwood pitched very well I thought, but we hit. We had a timely hit and we had a hit when we needed it.”

Grant led off the top of the 10th with an infield single, bouncing off Jenna Randall’s glove and into Karsjen’s for what resulted in a bang-bang play at first. Wheater rapped a double to right-center, and Makayla Hala’s bunt went for a hit when the Trojans refused to accept her sacrifice.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Greenwood nearly got out of the jam. Libby Atcher lined out to first baseman Josie deNeui, and Karsjen got the force-out at home after handling Neuroth’s hard-hit liner.

Hitless to that point, Bryan bounced a single through the left side to drive in Makayla Kerber (running for Wheater) and Hala. When the throw to the infield got away, Hoskey tried to steal another run, but Neuroth was cut down at the plate for the final out.

“We had runners on and I just knew I had to get a hit,” said Bryan, a junior. “I was really struggling during this game and I wasn’t getting the hits I wanted and I knew this was my time so I really used it to my advantage.

“I was just looking to battle, because that’s all I could do at that point. But I have a lot of confidence in myself and I’m really glad I could prove myself to my full potential tonight.”

Neuroth and her defense retired the Trojans in order in the bottom of the 10th, highlighted by Kerber’s acrobatic catch on the warning track in left field when deNeui nearly knocked one out of the park. It was one of two tremendous catches by Kerber in the game.

Grabenbauer led East Marshall with a 4-for-5 day at the plate that included a double and three RBIs. Wheater was 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and two runs scored. Neuroth, Bringmann and Grant had two hits apiece.

Greenwood finished with seven strikeouts and no walks, allowing 16 hits and four earned runs in the 10 inning defeat.

“In the end they hit the ball hard and hit it on the ground and sometimes that happens,” coach Randall said. “We stayed in the game and gave ourselves opportunities and that’s what you want out of your kids.”

Jarsjen, Fischer and Riley Randall had two hits each to lead the Trojans’ attack against Neuroth, who finished with 13 strikeouts and two walks. West Marshall totaled nine hits.

“Obviously West Marshall is really good and it’s a rivalry and it just means a lot to win against them,” said Bryan. “They beat PCM the other night and PCM kicked our butts, so it just feels really good to go out there and give it our all.”

The two Marshall County powers will face off again, as East returns to State Center to face West on June 25. East Marshall has won nine straight in the series.

East Marshall 14, Marshalltown 2, 5 innings

East Marshall scored in all five at-bats against Marshalltown, tallying a 14-2, five-inning victory in Saturday’s first game of the Rose Festival Tournament.

Morgan Neuroth struck out seven, walked two, and allowed just five hits and one earned run. She also had three of the Mustangs’ 14 hits, going 3-for-4 with a double. Her courtesy runner Cora Talbert scored twice.

Rayne McIlrath led East Marshall, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Peyton Grabenbauer was 2-for-3 with a double, a run and three RBIs, and Ashtyn Wheater was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Bailey Grant had two singles, two runs scored and two RBIs.

Marshalltown pitcher Karsyn Price lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing nine earned runs on nine hits and three total walks. Emma Stupp pitched the final 3 1/3 frames, allowing five hits and five runs — three earned — with three walks and one strikeout in her first pitching appearance of the season.

Stupp hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first, and she drove in Aubree Mundt with a single in the third. Mundt finished 2-for-2, and Gianna Baune had the team’s only other hit.

West Marshall 11, Hampton-Dumont-CAL 0, 5 innings

Taylor Thomas twirled a one-hit shutout and the West Marshall softball team blanked the Bulldogs 11-0 in five innings in Saturday’s second semifinal game.

A third-inning single for Mallory Rieken was H-D-C’s only hit off Thomas, who walked one and struck out six. The Bulldogs never advanced a runner as far as second base.

West Marshall’s 14-hit parade was captained by Jenna Randall, who ended the game in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run home run. She finished 3-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs and three runs scored.

Lily Zahnd was 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBI singles. Jillian Karsjen and Josie deNeui had two hits apiece. Amelia Ranson added an RBI double and scored a run.

Marshalltown 14, Hampton-Dumont-CAL 2, 3 innings

A long week of softball ended with a win for Marshalltown (9-14), but eight games in six days took its toll on the Bobcats.

MHS spent its entire practice Friday talking out some issues, and head coach Jason Bowers saw the kind of charisma he wanted from his team by the time Saturday’s tournament had ended.

The Bobcats bounced Hampton-Dumont-CAL, 14-2, in three innings to emerge with the consolation crown.

“The energy was there before we were winning,” Bowers said. “Energy is easy when you’re winning, and it’s difficult when you’re not. I thought even last year there were games I didn’t feel like we were losing and the energy was so good and you look up at the scoreboard and ‘oh, we’re losing.’ That’s what I want to see from these kids.

“The support they had for each other was just so much better in the second game.”

MHS pitchers Hanna Osgood and Briley Danielson combined on a four-hitter with four strikeouts, while the Bobcat bats racked up 13 hits in scoring at least three runs in each of its three at-bats.

Marshalltown took a 3-0 lead in the first after two runs scored on an errant throw on Abby Janssen’s grounder. Janssen scored on an Aubree Mundt single, and the Bobcats had the early advantage.

Gianna Baune drove in two runs with a triple, Kennedy Feldman followed with an RBI single, and Emma Stupp hit her second homer of the weekend to make it 8-0 Bobcats.

Marshalltown ended the game with seven — no, six — runs in the bottom of the third. Baune hit an RBI single, Stupp ripped a two-run single, and Danielson drove a two-run double off the fence to make it 14-2.

The game should have ended at that point because of the 12-run mercy rule, but play continued long enough for Danielson to come across on a wild pitch before the scoreboard caught up to the action on the field.

Stupp and Feldman had three hits apiece, while Baune was 2-for-3 with a triple, two runs and three RBIs. Laney Danielson, Madison Rogers and Price each contributed singles.

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