By ROGER THOMAS Courier correspondent
---- — EDDYVILLE — Class 2A No. 12 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont softball team played a really solid game, offensively and defensively, leading to the 7-1 non-conference win over Cardinal Friday night in Eddyville.
Both teams featured some of the things that have been part of their season throughout. The Comets committed four errors that caused five of the seven Rocket runs to be unearned.
“Right now our defense is not helping our pitchers,” said Cardinal coach Jerald Harter. “This late in the season, we should have the game maturity to handle this.”
On the other hand, EBF made the most of nine hits to score the seven runs, made a couple of really hard plays and made the routine ones look easy. Add that to a typical game from pitcher Nataliah Hopkins in the circle and, if you’re EBF, you’re 22-6 and deserving of your ranking.
“Nine hits are OK when you hit some of them really hard,” said EBF coach Tony Fenton. “Nat (Hopkins) throwing strikes let our defense play with great confidence.”
The Rockets opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with two runs. Both runs scored on Hopkins’ single.
The Comets closed to within 2-1 in the third. A Rocket throwing error allowed Carlie Bennet, who led off the inning with a single, to score.
The EBF response was a Rocket line drive to left center off the bat of Tasha Alexander. The impressive thing about the solo home run was how fast it left the field.
After a scoreless fourth, the Rockets went up 4-1 with a run in the fifth. Haegan Boyer and Alexander had back-to-back singles to start the fifth.
Danae Moses kept the inning from being a big one by pulling off an unassisted double play at second. Alexander then stole second and advanced to third on another Comet error before eventually scoring on a single by Jarrah Jensen.
“Running the bases has a lot to do with speed, but I think I’ve learned to instinctively read plays too,” said Alexander.
The Comets got to Hopkins for back-to-back hits with one out in the sixth as Lindsey Davis’ single was followed by a double from Alexis Adam. The confident Rocket defense got out of the inning by pulling off a 1-3-2 double play.
EBF took advantage of another Comet error to score three unearned runs in the sixth, to close out the scoring. Sadie Baugher led off with a double and, with two outs, Boyer and Alexander again had back-to-back hits.
“I’ve played lots of lower level games but this team makes it easy to be a part of because the older players really have helped me fit in,” the outgoing eighth-grader Boyer said.
Alexander’s third hit drove in the last two runs to put No. 12 (2A) EBF up by six. After starting the inning-ending double play in the sixth, Hopkins polished off Cardinal by retiring the Comets in order in the seventh.
“I really have worked on being more patient and that helps me see the ball longer and better,” said Alexander. “I feel like I’m really squaring up a lot of balls to hit.”
Both teams have full weeks with tough games remaining to wrap up the regular season. Harter talked about his Comets (14-13) week ahead.
“We have four or five tough games this week,” Harter said. We have a couple of tough conference games (starting with a game at home against Central Lee tonight) and two tough games in the Ottumwa Classic. We are getting enough hitting, but our defense will be crucial.”
EBF did not get their week off to a great start Monday, falling to Moravia 3-1. The 12th-ranked (2A) Rockets (22-7) also have to travel to Osceolathis week to take on Clarke in a battle of two teams seperated by one game in the South Central Conference.
The 12th-ranked Rockets downed Clarke 6-0 the first time. Clarke, who is ranked 12th in Class 3A, is 7-1 in the SCC and holds the one-game edge over the Rockets entering this final week of the regular season.
“That game will really be tough, but our whole team is so focused right now, that I think we’ll be OK,” Fenton said. “Then, we have a lot to accomplish after that.”
Alexander put it another way.
“We know that we have each other’s backs.”
Cardinal beat New London tonight 2-0 in SEISC South play, making their record 15-13, 9-3
No. 12 (2A) Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 7, Cardinal 1
Card 001 000 0 - 1 6 4
EBF 201 013 x - 7 9 1
Cardinal battery - Delaney Ridgway (L, 7-10) (6IP, 9H, 7R, 2ER, 2K, 2BB), Lindsay Moore catching.
2B – Alexis Adam.
Hits – Carlie Bennett 1-for-4, Moore 1-for-2, Lindsey Davis 1-for-3, Adam 2-for-3, Lexi Fullenkamp 1-for-3.
Runs - Bennett.
EBF battery – Nataliah Hopkins (W, 19-5) (7IP, 6H, 1R, 5K, 2BB), Jarrah Jensen catching.
2B – Sadie Baugher.
HR - Tasha Alexander.
Hits – Paige Shafer 1-for-4, Haegen Boyer 2-for-3, Alexander 3-for-4, Hopkins 1-for-4, J. Jensen 1-for-2, Baugher 1-for-2 .
RBI – Alexander 3, Hopkins 2, J. Jensen.
Runs - Shafer, Boyer, Alexander 3, Baugher, Makenzie Jensen.