If only coaching were this easy.
“She did everything she was asked to,” Solon softball coach Ben Sorden said of Alyssa Rickels’ at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Rickels delivered the game-winning two-out, two-run single just barely over the outstretched glove of leaping Mid-Prairie second baseman Emmie Leinen as the Spartans beat the Golden Hawks 6-5 Friday afternoon.
“I was a little worried,” Rickels admitted as she watched Leinen try to snare the ball.
“I told her to look for a pitch she could take hard up the middle,” Sorden said. “She did.”
The game was the opener for the teams in the Clear Creek Amana Classic tournament that continues today at the University of Iowa. It sent Solon on its way to a Friday night winner’s bracket game against either DeWitt or Des Moines Lincoln.
Mid-Prairie played the loser of the game between DeWitt and Lincoln.
It was an odd game in some ways but an entertaining back-and-forth affair for spectators. Each team hit the ball well. Each team made only one physical error, but the mental errors on both sides were a little more pronounced.
“It wasn’t one of our finest performances, but Ben probably thought the same thing,” Mid-Prairie coach Justin Lutjen said. “(Mental errors) is very untypical of us. The girls were geared up for that game, maybe a little too much so.”
“That was an atypical game for us, but as I told the girls, ‘A win is a win,'” Sorden said. “We found a way to win.”
Mid-Prairie broke on top with a run from a single, sacrifice and two wild pitches. Solon responded with a single and a sacrifice, but Rylee Smith reached on the bunt when no one covered first. A grounder moved the two runners to second and third. Rickels’ grounded to shortstop Mallory McArtor who threw home to cut down a runner at the plate, but Rickels baited the catcher into throwing to second and Smith scored to tie the game.
Kara Misel then crushed an outside pitch by Arran Weeces over the fence in right to give Solon a 3-1 lead.
“I go in there thinking two outs doesn’t matter,” Misel said. “A 3-2 count she’s got to come at me some way so be looking for the one and get in that load and take it out.”
Back came the Golden Hawks with two to tie in the fourth on Mariah Swartzentruber’s two-run double off the centerfield fence. They took a 4-3 lead on Felicia Schulty’s long single in the fifth, but Solon matched that with Mel Breza’s sacrifice fly to center in the bottom half.
Again Mid-Prairie took a one-run lead in the top of the sixth when Swartzentruber doubled again, and Amber Kral knocked her in with a base hit.
“It’s coming around more,” Lutjen said of his team’s hitting. “We’ve been trying to be a little more disciplined. They did a great job today.”
Solon was down to its last five outs, but Emily Ira singled and Smith walked before Taylor Nearad grounded out and moved the runners up with two out. Up came Rickels, who hits lefthanded and looks like a slapper in her approach. She drilled the pitch into right center.
“Put the ball in play and score more runs,” Rickels said when asked her mindset. “I was looking for a pitch I can drive, just be patient.”
“You just have to keep battling,” Misel said.
“We’d like to win by more, but coming back is our thing,” Rickels said.
Ira got the Golden Hawks out in the seventh with only McArtor reaching on a single to preserve the victory. Ira got the win, pitching the final three innings.
Freshman Taylor Kurtz took the loss for Mid-Prairie.
“She pitched really well, but she didn’t have her riseball today, and that kind of hurt her,” Lutjen said. “Overall disappointed but you know it’s just one game. It’s a little better than that 14-1 performance we put up in that first game.”
Solon beat Mid-Prairie 14-1 in the season opener on May 21, but clearly things have changed.
HR–Kara Misel. 2B–Mariah Swartzentruber (2). W–Emily Ira (5-0), L–Taylor Kurtz (4-2). Records: Solon 24-3, Mid-Prairie 19-10.