By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA – It's not often that a 1-3 weekend will leave Indian Hills head softball coach Jim Overturf feeling positive.
Considering the level of competition, and considering the position the Warriors were in after the first three games, one win was enough for Overturf to feel good about.
After finally getting their first look at the top team in their own region on Saturday, Indian Hills returned home to face another team with high hopes for a deep run in May. The Warriors avoided being swept by two rated opponents in less than 24 hours Sunday, salvaging a split with No. 11 (DII) Illinois Central (17-13) as IHCC answered a 3-0 shutout loss in game one with a 2-0 shutout win in the second game at Romalynn "R.L." Hellyer Field.
"Frankly, I'm thrilled with it," Overturf said. "It's a good win that we got going into this last week. We played well all weekend. We kept ourselves in all four games. We're doing some things well. We just have to feel how to win when we do those things."
The well-paced doubleheader came in the wake of the Warriors' first two games of the season against 14th-ranked Iowa Western, the runaway leader in Region XI. The Reivers, who have ended each of the last two IHCC softball seasons in the finals of the regional tournament, maintained a perfect regular season regional record with wins of 6-0 and 8-5 at Council Bluffs over the Warriors.
"We outhit (Iowa Western). That was probably the most disappointing thing about those games," Overturf said. "We did so well offensively, which is something we haven't done so well, and yet we gave up six runs and eight runs. We also couldn't seem to put hits together, which is a challenge and a difficult thing for any team to do."
After making the long drive out to Council Bluffs, losing twice, then turning around following a longer trip home, Indian Hills had to find a way to refocus with a very solid Illinois Central team awaiting them Sunday. The Warriors seemed to be missing a beat early on as Cougar game-one starting pitcher Cordan Jones struck out six IHCC batters in the first four innings.
It's definately harder to get back up for a game, especially when it's not a regional opponent," freshman catcher Kaylyn Decock said. "It didn't make it any easier that we lost both games (on Saturday)."
Warrior miscues that included having two baserunners tagged out in scoring position or two errors that allowed an unearned Illinois Central run to score in the sixth. Overturf, however, didn't believe the mistakes that played a part in the 3-0 loss to the Cougars had anything to do with a hangover from Saturday's two losses to Iowa Western.
"I just know if I were 18 or 19 years old, there isn't a place I'd rather be then out on the diamond no matter what happened the day before," Overturf said. "I was out getting the field ready at 8:30 in the morning. They had to travel three-and-a-half hours to get here to play us too, so I don't think travel had anything to do with it."
"The main focus for us going into game two was about getting our heads back into the game," sophomore Kaitlyn Matzen added. "We needed to expect to win, not just hope to win."
Matzen helped the Warriors get just their second lead of the entire weekend, driving in Olivia Starcevich with a two-out RBI double in the third inning. Decock, who led all IHCC players with four RBI against Iowa Western, struck again with a line drive double off the left field fence with the Warriors' second run of game two.
"I just knew that's what we needed right then," Decock said of her double that drove in Matzen. "It helped the team a lot and did a lot to help our motiviation."
"Kaylyn's got a big bat and we've got a lot of confidence in her to step up to the plate. This is the perfect time of year for her to come through like that," Matzen added.
Indian Hills (17-25, 2-8) will need many more clutch performances heading into a very important final week of the regular season. With their regulary-scheduled doubleheader with Marshalltown on Monday canceled as the Tigers make up regional games, IHCC will now focus on their last two regular season regional matchups including a final regular-season home doubleheader Tuesday with No. 14 (DI) Iowa Western (36-9, 10-0) starting at 2 p.m.
"It seems like the only thing we're really lacking in right now is confidence," Overturf said. "Hopefully, this can be a confidence-building week."
No. 11 (DII) Illinois Central 3, Indian Hills 0
ICC 000 201 0 — 3 5 1
IHCC 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
Illinois Central battery — Cordan Jones (W, 5-2) (4IP, 2H, 6K) and Jaime Scott (3IP, 2H, BB), Brittany Miller catching.
HR — Sam Gudat.
Hits — Gudat 2-3, Amber Haulk 1-3, Jones 1-3, Allie Rupp 1-3.
RBI — Gudat, Haulk.
Runs — Gudat 2, Jones.
Indian Hills battery — Kendle Schieber (L, 9-11) (7IP, 5H, 3R, 2ER, 4K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Schieber.
Hits — Schieber 2-2, Laci Moore 1-2, Kaitlyn Matzen 1-3.
Indian Hills 2, No. 11 (DII) Illinois Central 0
ICC 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
IHCC 002 000 x — 2 4 0
Illinois Central battery — Cori Maloney (L, 5-6) (6IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 6K, 2BB, HBP), Dani Smith catching.
2B — Cordan Jones.
Hits — Amber Haulk 2-3, Jones 1-2, Brittany Miller 1-2.
Indian Hills battery — Courtney Collins (W, 3-7) (4IP, 3H, 4K, 4BB) and Mackenzie Haight (3IP, H, 5K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Decock, Kaitlyn Matzen.
Hits — Matzen 2-3, Hiliary Pennington 1-2, Decock 1-3.
RBI — Decock, Matzen.
Runs — Matzen, Olivia Starcevich.
No. 14 (DI) Iowa Western 6, Indian Hills 0
IHCC 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
IWCC 000 024 x — 6 9 0
Indian Hills battery — Kendle Schieber (L, 9-10) (6IP, 9H, 6R, 5ER, 7K, 2BB), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Carrie Hudson.
Hits — Hudson 2-3, Schieber 1-3.
No. 14 (DI) Iowa Western 8, Indian Hills 5
IHCC 100 020 2 — 5 12 3
IWCC 103 121 x — 8 8 0
Indian Hills battery — Courtney Collins (L, 2-7) (4IP, 6H, 6R, 5ER, 2K, 5BB), Mackenzie Haight (1 1/3IP, H, R, ER, K, 3BB) and Megan Brady (2/3IP, H, R, K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Decock, Kaitlyn Matzen, Kendle Schieber.
3B — Matzen.
Hits — Decock 2-4, Matzen 2-4, Laci Moore 2-4, Hiliary Pennington 2-4, Schrieber 2-4, Jaylinn Tressler 1-2, Olivia Starcevich 1-3.
RBI — Decock 4, Matzen.
Runs — Pennington 2, Matzen, Starcevich, Tressler.