OLD SCHOOL NCC
No. 3 ’Cats stay queens of league with 8-inning win over No. 15 Lynx
HUMBOLDT — It was old school North Central Conference softball at its finest, where the pitchers dictated the game, the innings flew by in the blink of an eye and the hitters were left grasping for answers Friday night.
Carlie Thompson was finally able to solve the puzzle in the eighth inning, and in doing so may have lifted her third-ranked (Class 3A) Humboldt squad to its fourth consecutive league crown.
A one-out, bases-loaded single to right field against a drawn-in infield by Thompson produced the game’s only run, and it came in walk-off fashion as Humboldt escaped past 15th-ranked (4A) Webster City, 1-0.
Winners of nine consecutive games, including five straight shutouts, the Wildcats (27-2, 12-1 NCC) clinched at least a share of the NCC crown with their second win over WCHS (20-6, 12-2 NCC) in the past 10 days. They can secure the outright title with a win over Clear Lake this evening. A Lions win would give WCHS a piece of the championship, which would be their first since 2013.
“I’m sure it was fun to watch,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said as she tried to laugh away some tears following Friday’s gut-wrenching disappointment. “You don’t get to play in games like this very often. It’s like a state championship game, a winner takes all situation and they were unfortunately the ones who came out on top.”
Carlie Thompson’s liner over the head of WCHS second baseman Atlanta Hopp brought Addie Thompson to the plate from third. Addie Thompson opened the eighth inning with a lead-off bunt single down the third base line. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ashlyn Clark and then to third on the game’s only error off the bat of Kyah Arnold. WCHS intentionally walked Claire Varangkounh to load the bases and set up a force out at any base, but Carlie Thompson made Howard’s strategic maneuver moot.
That one hit by Carlie Thompson spoiled what was arguably the finest pitching performance of Jenna Miller’s budding career. The WCHS sophomore limited last year’s third-place team at the state tournament to just three hits and only Carlie Thompson’s was a hard-hit ball.
Miller was perfect through 51⁄3 innings, as she sat down the first 16 batters she faced. Arnold broke up the perfect game with a one-out bloop single to center in the sixth, but that was all Miller allowed through regulation.
“She did a great job for us of overpowering the batters,” Howard said of Miller, who also received plenty of help from her defense. “(Humboldt) can hit one through nine, but she did a good job of hitting her corners and knowing where the umpire liked to call it. It was a very solid performance from her in terms of maturity and in terms of physical ability.”
But Humboldt all-state hurler Ellie Jacobson was equally dominant, if not more so. She sat down nine straight batters to open the game before Kelly Stoakes broke her rhythm with a lead-off double down the left-field line in the fourth. Jacobson responded with three consecutive strikeouts and finished with 13 in the game.
Leah Kasch had the Lynx only other hit — a two-out single that she dropped into shallow right field in the seventh.
Five of Jacobson’s strikeouts were on called third strikes.
“She knew what the (umpire) was going to call and she knew what her strikeout pitch was for us,” Howard said of Jacobson. “The one area we need to improve on as we go forward is fighting off that third strike and not making it so easy on (teams) in those situations.”
The only scary moment Jacobson faced came early in the seventh inning. Zoey Woodle hammered the ball to deep center field, but Carlie Thompson managed to reel it in just a step or two in front of the fence.
Although how the NCC shakes out is now out of its control, WCHS still has one regular season game remaining this evening at home against Forest City, and Howard says her team wants to send a message before the postseason begins.
“We haven’t plateaued, we’re still growing,” she said.
Humboldt 1, Webster City 0 (8)
Friday at Humboldt
Web City 000 000 00 — 0 2 1
Humboldt 000 000 01 — 1 3 0
Jenna Miller and Kaitlynn Seeley. Ellie Jacobson and Mady Lange. W — Jacobson. L — Miller. 2B — WC: Kelly Stoakes. RBI — HUM: Carlie Thompson.