SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Good teams take advantage of what’s given to them.
Sioux Center did just that here Wednesday, handing Sheldon its first softball loss of the season, 6-2, at Open Space Park.
The Warriors, ranked No. 12 in Iowa Class 3A, scored all six runs after two were out in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Sioux Center improved to 11-1 on the season and wrestled first place in the Siouxland Conference from Sheldon, now 9-1.
“Our word for the game today was focus and we really wanted to have that next pitch mentality,” Sioux Center Coach Kari Schmalback said. “We knew if we just moved past anything that happened prior and just put the ball in play and force them to make mistakes, then good things could happen.”
Sheldon had a 1-0 lead behind the outstanding pitching of sophomore Kourtney Dekker, who had registered two outs with a runner on second in the fifth.
Sioux Center’s Annika John hit a routine pop up in the infield, but the Sheldon first baseman and catcher collided and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground, allowing John to reach second and Annie Bullock – who had reached on an error – to score the tying run.
After that, the floodgates opened for the Warriors.
Megan Juffer lined an RBI down the right field line and Willow Bleeker followed with a triple to the gap in right-center. Lizzie Van Es then hit a hard shot that got past the shortstop and drove in another run.
Tatum Schmalback ripped Sioux Center’s second triple of the inning, plating the fifth run. The sixth came home on an error by the second baseman.
Sheldon had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Emma Barwick led off with a single, stole second and scored on a double off the left field fence by Payten Lode.
The Orabs made some noise in their last at-bat. Maliah Kleinhesselink led off the seventh with a single to center and Claire Johnson beat out a bunt single.
A ground out advanced the runners and Kleinhesselink scored on a ground out by Dekker. Sioux Center’s centerfielder made a fine running catch of a drive off the bat of Reese Strouth to end the contest.
“The night before we played at George-Little Rock and didn’t score anything until the sixth and seventh innings and ended up with 11 hits, all in the sixth and seventh,” Coach Schmalback said. “We have a good group of girls who don’t give up and they battle and continue to make it exciting.”
Tatum Schmalback, another talented sophomore pitcher, picked up the win. She allowed five hits while striking out six.
Sheldon’s Dekker had eight strikeouts and surrendered seven hits.
“Our goal from the beginning has been we need to limit our own mistakes and we’re going to be in every ball game,” Sheldon Coach Jessica Stofferan said. “We kind of let one turn into two and then three. We kind of beat ourselves.
“Good teams will take advantage of the opportunity that’s given to them. If you give a team more than one chance. Hats off to them for taking advantage of our mistakes.”
It was the first setback for a youthful Sheldon team with just one senior on its roster.
“I’m looking forward to our next game to see how we respond,” Stofferan said. “I’m still very confident where we can be with this team. We just have to get past some of these little mistakes.”
Tatum Schmalback had a single and triple for the Warriors, who played at Hull Western Christian Thursday and at Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley on Friday.
Sioux Center had a 5-0 conference mark heading into the Friday game, which completed the first six games of league play.
Sheldon, meanwhile, was 4-1 in the Siouxland and had a Friday contest at Sibley-Ocheyedan.