FORT DODGE, Iowa – When things started to go against Akron-Westfield the Westerners couldn’t come up with the answers to slow down AGWSR in a Class 1A state softball semifinal at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex here Wednesday.
AGWSR broke open a close game with four runs in the fifth inning and when the Westerners made a sixth-inning charge, the Cougars responded with five more runs to put the game en route to the 12-5 victory.
“Our mistakes just kind of snowballed mentally and physically,” Akron-Westfield coach Todd Colt said. “Hats off to them. They outplayed us in most phases of the game today and they are a very good ballclub.”
The game started with a bang for the Cougars as Makenna Kuper smacked a leadoff home run well over the center field fence for the 1-0 lead. The score would remain that way until the top of the fifth inning when Kuper hit a one-out double and moved to third on an error that put runners on the corners. Taryan Barrick would plate Kuper with a single to left and Ali Gerbracht scored on a wild pitch before the final run of the frame came on Rachel Sicard’s double.
Akron-Westfield tried to limit the Cougars’ momentum in the fifth as Colt used three pitching changes between Natalie Nielsen and Megan Meinen but to no avail. For the game, A-W made six pitching changes between the two eighth-graders.
“I don’t think we were at our best today and we knew that we were going to have to be at our best to have a chance,” Colt said.
The Westerners would get on the board in the bottom of the fifth as Chloe Colt drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on Brynn VanEldik’s sacrifice bunt.
AGWSR had upset two-time defending state champ Kee in the regional final to reach the tournament. The Cougars added two more runs in the top of the sixth which proved to be important as the Westerners got going in their half of the sixth.
With two outs Kiana Appley drew a walk and stole second base. It was her fifth stolen base of the game setting a new Class 1A state single-game record previously held by seven players with three.
Courtney Waterbury would follow with a walk and Lily Kenny drove in the first run with a single. After another walk, Nielsen singled to center to plate two more runs to cut the lead to 7-4. The Westerners still had two baserunners on when VanEldik flew out to left to end the threat.
“We just had a tough time getting things rolling, and when we did they would answer right back,” Colt said. “We fought hard right to the end and on paper they looked really good, and on the field they looked really good.”
AGWSR (28-7) would deflate any hopes of an impressive Westerner comeback by putting five up in the seventh inning highlighted by Sicard’s three-run home run, giving her four RBIs total.
Appley and Nielsen had two hits each as the Westerners got seven off of Barrick, who stuck out nine.
The Westerners (26-14) will play in the third-place game on Thursday at 5 p.m. against Lisbon after it fell to Collins-Maxwell 1-0 in the other semifinal. It will be the final game for five Akron-Westfield seniors.
“How can you be disappointed if you are down here and fighting right to the end?” Colt said. “Things didn’t work out for us but we will come out in the end better and make progress in areas we weren’t strong in today.”