WEBSTER CITY - Coated in sweat and with a face as red as a beet, Webster City pitcher Kaitlyn Biere had it humming on a scorching evening yesterday at Lynx Field.
There was just one problem: Here counterpart, Hampton-Dumont's 6-foot-4 hurler Michelle Ritland, was just as good. And she nearly single-handedly showed the Lynx the exit door in the chase for the North Central Conference championship.
Biere fanned the first nine batters of the game and finished with 12, but Ritland struck out 10 and the Bulldogs snuck an unearned run across in the fifth inning to send the Lynx to the showers, 1-0.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City’s Kaylee Schnathorst (8) slides safely into second with a stolen base during last night’s North Central Conference game against Hampton-Dumont at Lynx Field. The Bulldogs captured a 1-0 win.
There were just four hits in the game - three for Hampton-Dumont (16-8, 11-4 NCC), one for Webster City (18-13, 12-4 NCC).
"It was frustrating," WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. "We really didn't struggle the first time that we went up against (Ritland), but we let her control the game this time. We were lunging a lot and we didn't hold back on the change-up."
WCHS hammered the Bulldogs 8-2 back on June 7. But this time the Lynx could only muster a fourth-inning single back up the middle by Kaylee Schnathorst, who was at third when Ritland maneuvered out of the jam.
Hampton-Dumont000 010 0-1 3 2
Webster City000 000 0-0 1 1
Michelle Ritland and Kylie Murphy. Kaitlyn Biere and Kaylee Schnathorst. W-Ritland. L-Biere. RBI-H-D: Madison Craighton.
The loss pushed WCHS back into third place in the league standings, two games in back of leader Iowa Falls-Alden and one behind Fort Dodge St. Edmond. Howard knows that if her team is going to defend its conference title, now it will need help.
And lots of it.
"There's always a chance that you can still come out on top, but it's definitely going to have to be on a tie with somebody else," Howard said. "If it goes our way, it goes our way. But if not, we just have to finish out the regular season strong and get ready for the postseason."
Biere used her entire arsenal of pitches - fastball, change-up, riseball, dropball and curve - to sit every Bulldog batter down the first time around. Hampton-Dumont finally started to make contact in the fourth, and in the fifth Ritland got the ball rolling towards the win when she reached on an error to lead-off the frame.
Ritland moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, over to third on a base hit by Demi Monahan, and then scored when Madison Craighton hit a grounder to shortstop.
"I think this was definitely one of (Biere's) best-pitched games," Howard said. "She obviously controlled them the first time through the lineup, and the second time she gave them pitches that made them put it on the ground. But unfortunately, we weren't able to get that one in the fifth.
"By the same token, we've got to put the ball in play."
WCHS will be back at home on Friday to host Algona Bishop Garrigan at 7:15 p.m. The Lynx will close out the regular season on the road at Clear Lake on Monday.