Starting next week, the Newton softball team will be participating in regional play taking place at Des Moines Hoover. This is refreshing news for a team that struggled mightily to find its identity at the beginning of the season because the Cards seem to have found their stride.
Although Newton split its games with the visiting Little Dutch from Pella, the team played with a grit that had not been on display in games earlier this season. The Cards won the first matchup with their Little Hawkeye Conference foes, 3-1, and even though they took the loss in the second game, 5-3, they battled back from a four run deficit and came within a base hit of tying the game.
“It was one of our better days of the season. We didn’t have one bad inning. We had confidence at the plate,” Newton coach Ashley Ryan said. “Our infield and outfield made some big plays when we needed it. It’s probably the best ball I’ve seen us play, and that’s a huge positive because it’s taking us toward next Thursday. That’s our goal right now.”
The win or loss mattered little to Ryan, who simply wanted to see consistency and fight out of her team. The Cardinal girls showed plenty of that against the Little Dutch. In the first game with the score tied at one, Sarah Kalkhoff stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third. She hit a ground ball out in front of the plate. The throw to first led the first baseman into Kalkhoff’s running lane, and when the two collided, the ball popped out, scoring Sydney Jenkins and Sarita Smith.
The Pella coach came out to argue, and the umpires ruled that Kalkhoff interfered, forcing Smith to return to second base. Then, Madison Bagnall stepped to the plate and launched a double off the left-center field fence to score Smith and send the Cards’ dugout into a roar.
“We earned that. We didn’t get a call. We had to move girls back,” Ryan said. “Then we stepped up to the plate and absolutely earned that run, and that was huge. That just shows that they didn’t let anything affect them tonight. They just jumped right on it.”
In the second game, the Cards fell behind 2-0 in the third inning. An infield single followed by a double to right field scored the first run of the game. The following sacrifice fly put the Little Dutch up by two.
Pella added two more runs in its next turn at-bat. A two-out two RBI triple by Allie DeMeulenaere put the Little Dutch up 4-0, but Newton would answer in the bottom half of the fourth.
Bagnall led things off with a single.
Kari Adams followed with a base hit up the middle, and a sacrifice bunt by Smith put both runners in scoring position. Morgan Davros eked out a single by the diving Pella second baseman to drive in two runs.
Kaitlyn Ahn then doubled to put runners at second and third. Jenkins’ RBI fielder’s choice brought Newton within a run.
The Little Dutch added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning on an RBI double in between the right and center fielders by Sierra Williams.
With two outs Ashton Hoffman singled up the middle. Bagnall followed that up with a single yanked just inside the third base bag to put the tying run on base. Adams’ single up the middle loaded the bases, but Frances Lucas’ groundout to first base ended things, 5-3.
Despite the loss in the second game, Ryan was very upbeat and happy to see her team playing as one.
“It really didn’t matter whether we won or lost today. We just want to be playing out better ball, because on Thursday, everyone is 0-0. It doesn’t matter what the record is or where we are,” Ryan said.
“In the second game, they battled back. We got down early, but they didn’t let that affect them, and that’s great to see right now. At the beginning of the year, we kind of let that one inning or that one call affect us. Tonight we didn’t at all, and that’s great to see for Thursday.”