MIDDLE INNINGS MAGIC
Lynx spot Cadets early lead, respond with 11 straight runs to roll
IOWA FALLS — Less than 48 hours after a stinging 6-5, 9-inning loss to second-ranked (Class 3A) Humboldt, the Webster City softball team had one mission in its return to the diamond here Friday night.
OK, Kelly Stoakes, what specifically was that mission?
“We just wanted to come out and hit the crap out of the ball really,” Stoakes, Webster City’s all-state sophomore lead-off hitter, said.
Consider it mission accomplished.
Out of the 4A top 15 rankings for the first time this season, WCHS spotted North Central Conference rival Iowa Falls-Alden a three-run lead after one inning and then unleashed an offensive fury that led to 13 hits, four of which went for extra bases, in an 11-6 win over the Cadets that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
The Lynx (4-3, 3-2 NCC) led 11-3 entering the last half of the seventh. IF-A (4-3, 3-2 NCC) connected for three hits in its last at bat to draw respectably close.
“We have to make sure that we have a better first inning and last inning, we need to clean those areas up, but the middle of the game was very good for us,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said.
Seven different Lynx players racked up at least one hit and one RBI, and Howard also got aggressive with runners aboard to the tune of nine stolen bases.
“We even had girls stealing third that aren’t necessarily third-base stealers,” Howard said. “We caught them off guard and took advantage of it when they weren’t ready for it.”
As usual, Stoakes — a Tony Gwynn clone on the softball dirt — was the driving factor behind the offensive surge. She went 3 for 4 with a double and two runs scored, upping her batting average to .522 on the season. Lead-off was her spot a season ago; she began this season in the No. 3 spot in an effort to take advantage of her power, but recently moved back to the top and it’s paid dividends.
“I like being back in the spot I was last year, but hitting is hitting,” Stoakes said.
Said Howard: “When she gets on it builds everybody’s confidence. She’s doing a great job in that lead-off spot, but she’d do a great job wherever I put her in the lineup.”
Alayna Finucan matched Stoakes’ 3 for 4 effort with an RBI, and Taylor McKinney had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs. Finucan and McKinney also had three stolen bases each and increased their batting averages to .391 and .350, respectively.
McKinney, in particular, has found her swing and power in recent games. Her third-inning RBI line-drive single got WCHS on the scoreboard, and two innings later she found the gap for an RBI double.
“Hitters are up and down all season long and right now (McKinney) is at her high,” Howard said. “We want to keep her there, and she’s a double threat. She can bunt and she can hit, so teams have to second-guess what to do with her.”
Livia Kasch had two hits as well and one RBI. Leah Kasch and Jenna Miller both belted a double and drove in a run, Tatum Goings found an opening in the outfield for an RBI single, and Addie Tesdahl plated a run on a sacrifice fly.
“It’s huge that everybody is hitting because then they have to pitch to everybody,” Stoakes said. “Even though they scored in the first inning, we knew we’d come back and put the ball in play.”
Hailey Bridgewater’s first-inning two-run home run to left field gave IF-A the early momentum. But WCHS answered with a four-run third and then increased its edge to 6-3 in the fifth. Miller’s RBI double to right-center keyed a four-run seventh.
IF-A got to Miller for 10 hits, as the Lynx junior hurler dealt with the frustration of being called multiple times for illegal pitches — a problem she’s never had in the past. Bridgewater, Elise Osman, Miller’s counterpart in the circle, and Lorren Steinfeldt all had two hits each for the Cadets.
“For the most part Jenna did well locating her pitches,” Howard said. “We might have had a couple pitches that hung there and they were just able to capitalize on the balls in their wheelhouse.”
WCHS will look to take the momentum into this evening when it will host St. Edmond at 7:30 p.m.
Webster City 11, IF-Alden 6
Friday at Iowa Falls
Web City 004 021 4 — 11 13 3
IF-Alden 300 000 3 — 6 10 6
Jenna Miller and Kelly Stoakes. Elise Osman and Elliot Wood. WP — Miller. LP — Osman. Multiple hits — WC: Stoakes (3), Alayna Finucan (3), Taylor McKinney, Livia Kasch; IF-A: Osman, Hailey Bridgewater, Lorren Steinfeldt. 2B — WC: Stoakes, McKinney, Miller, Leah Kasch; IF-A: Bridgewater, Osman. HR — IF-A: Bridgewater. RBI — WC: McKinney (2), Le. Kasch, Miller, Finucan, Li. Kasch, Addie Tesdahl, Tatum Goings; IF-A: Bridgewater (2), Osman, Steinfeldt, Marlee Lancaster.