Wake up, rally: Quite shaky early, Lynx fly by Eagles late

WEBSTER CITY – It’s no secret that high school kids prefer to sleep in, particularly during the lazy months of summer.

Metaphorically speaking, that’s what the Webster City softball team did yesterday morning. In fact, the Lynx may have hit the snooze button a time or two.

A quick, but stern talk from head coach Jess Howard before the start of the third inning wiped the sleep out of the players’ eyes.

Trailing 8-3 and with seven errors – yes, seven – until its belt after 21?2 innings, WCHS somehow righted the ship defensively and caught fire offensively to rally for an 11-8 win over Eagle Grove in the final North Central Conference meeting between the longtime rivals. The Eagles will enter the North Iowa Conference this fall.

The avalanche of rain that has hit the area in recent weeks has forced teams to get creative with make-up games, and the early morning contest – the first pitch was thrown at 10 a.m. – didn’t play into the Lynx hands.

“(The early) start was weird and it threw us for a loop,” WCHS senior center fielder Kaylee Schnathorst said. “But I’m not going to say that’s the reason we struggled. Obviously the errors had a lot to do with it.”

WCHS (15-16, 11-4 NCC) made four defensive miscues in the first inning, two in the second and one in the third. All eight Eagle Grove runs were unearned, including the three that scored on Megan Crail’s second-inning home run to left field.

“It took us until about the fourth inning before we woke up and started playing,” Howard said. “It’s just making sure that we’re ready to play from the beginning and not coming out sluggish. Even offensively, we didn’t have what we needed early.”

Two defensive moves made by Howard paid off. She sent Gabbi Hoversten into the pitcher’s circle in the third inning and the sophomore allowed just three hits over the final five innings. She retired 11 straight Eagles during one stretch.

Howard also inserted junior Molly Gilbert into left field and she made two highlight-reel catches, first on a Tori Axtell foul ball in the fifth inning that she snagged as it was set to clear the fence. Gilbert also saved two runs in the top of the seventh with a two-out shoestring catch on a low liner by Esme Figueroa.

Hoversten also went 1-for-1 with an RBI at the dish.

“Molly and Gabbi did a great job coming in and not getting rattled,” Howard said. “(Hoversten) is a tough kid. She’s very controlled when she’s out there and she just lets her defense do the work.”

WCHS trimmed the Eagles’ lead to 8-5 in the bottom of the third, keyed by a Catie Boyd RBI base knock.

The Lynx moved in front for good with five runs in the fifth. Schnathorst led-off the frame by bashing a Crail offering off the fence in left-center for a double. She scored on a Maddie Anderson base hit, and Hoversten and Boyd followed with a walk and single to load the bases.

That set the stage for No. 8 hitter Hannah Myers; she worked the count full before turning on a Crail fastball and smoking it into left for a three-RBI double to give WCHS its first lead, 9-8.

Kenady Highland produced the Lynx fifth hit of the inning on a perfectly-placed bunt, and Myers scored moments later on a double steal.

A Hoversten sacrifice bunt allowed Schnathorst – aboard after being plunked by a pitch – to race around from second and score an insurance run in the sixth.

WCHS blistered the ball for 11 hits; Boyd and Anderson were both 2-for-4 and Mikaleh McCoy lashed a double.

“Our bats save us a lot,” Schnathorst, who was 1-for-2 with three runs scored, said. “We have a new confidence when we go up to the plate this year.”

Howard agreed.

“We’re a team that, a lot of the time, is going to have to outscore our opponents,” she said. “Our offense is really strong this year. Some nights we really struggle with it, but others we’re strong and are able to put a lot of runs on the board.”

Crail had two of Eagle Grove’s five hits. She drove in four runs.

No. 6 Gaels wrap up share of NCC title with win over Lynx

FORT DODGE – Sixth-ranked (Class 2A) Fort Dodge St. Edmond assured itself of no worse than a share of the North Central Conference championship last night at Harlan Rogers Park.

And considering the Gaels (26-4, 15-0 NCC) have yet to lose a league game, it’s almost guaranteed they will take sole ownership of the crown.

St. Edmond ripped nine hits and scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning to get by Webster City, 5-1.

“They’re a very solid defensive team and they can hit one through nine,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said of the Gaels. “They don’t have a batter in their lineup that you can count on being an out, so they’re tough.”

One bright spot was the fact that WCHS (15-17, 11-5 NCC) made just one error defensively – a significant improvement over a seven-error debacle in an 11-8 come-from-behind win over Eagle Grove earlier in the day.

Molly Gilbert, Mikaleh McCoy, Maddie Anderson and Kenady Highland all singled for the Lynx in the loss. Abbey Fuhs drove in the team’s only run on a ground out in the third inning.

McCoy took the loss in the circle after working the first three innings before handing the ball off to reliever Gabbi Hoversten.

St. Edmond pitcher Amanda Lansman fanned seven Lynx batters.

WCHS will return home this evening to take on Iowa Falls-Alden at 7:15 p.m. The Cadets knocked off Algona Bishop Garrigan, 5-3, last night behind the theatrics of Shanaya Schutt, who cranked a walk-off three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.