When the week began, it didn’t look promising outside that the Indian Hills softball team would be playing any home games in the month of March.
By the end of the week, the sun was shining on Romalynn ‘R.L.’ Hellyer Field, producing the kind of day freshman Kendle Schieber was happy to be out enjoying with her Warrior teammates.
“It’s beautiful out here. I love to play softball on a day like this,” Schieber said. “The win definitely makes it even better.”
The home opener that looked like it would never get here brought out the best in the Warriors Friday at the Reed Overhead Doors Classic. Schieber got the Warriors off to the right start on their home diamond, delivering a three-run home run with two outs in the first inning of IHCC’s first game this spring at home.
The drive, which just cleared the fence down the left field line, set the tone for the Warriors against Nebraska’s Central Community College. IHCC hammered four homers in their first home game, driving in seven decisive runs in a 9-2 victory Friday morning.
The first day of play at Hellyer Field turned into the day of the home run. The Warriors and Crowder College out of Missouri each hit five in their two games, including five combined to drive in all nine runs in their primetime matchup against each other.
Crowder, who represented the Iowa-Missouri District K champions, showed why they advanced to the NJCAA Division I National Softball Tournament on Friday in Ottumwa. The Lady Riders picked up their 20th win of the season by hammering four home runs and four doubles against the Warriors on the way to a 6-3 win in the highlight game of the Classic’s opening day.
“We needed to be in that atmosphere. That’s postseason atmosphere,” Indian Hills head coach Jim Overturf said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids that haven’t been a part of an atmosphere like that and they don’t understand that, sometimes, the ball is going to carry a little more on a day and a night like this.”
Schreiber got the chance to take advantage of the hitter-friendly conditions with an early opportunity aided by the first-inning defense of Central. After Olivia Starcevich drew a one-out walk in the first, a slow groundball hit by Kaitlyn Matzen should have led to a force out at second.
Instead, an errant throw by Raider third baseman Kate Behnk gave the Warriors an extra out. Schreiber stepped up to the plate after Felisha Durflinger pop out looking to take full advantage.
“I had two runners on base and I knew I had to pick my teammates up,” Schreiber said. “I just try to put the ball in play. That’s all my goal is.”
The Warriors put several balls in play in their home opener. Eight different hitters contributed to a 15-hit attack against Central, including five hits in the third inning that helped pad IHCC's lead to 5-0.
After Caitlin Fehringer gave Central a spark with a two-run single in the bottom of the third, sophomores Kaitlyn Matzen and Felisha Durflinger answered back by channeling Schieber’s long-ball momentum. The three-four hitters connected on back-to-back solo homers to knock Raider starting pitcher Paige DeLancey out of the contest while reestablishing a five-run lead for the Warriors.
“After I hit my home run, Felisha came up to me and asked how she was going to follow that up,” Matzen said. “I told her ‘you got it.’ She stepped up and showed what she could do.”
Durflinger continued to showcase her power-hitting abilities against Crowder, getting a little help from Lady Rider centerfielder Jessica Neely. With two runners on in the fourth inning down 1-0, Durflinger hit a ball deep to right center that went off Neely’s glove and over the fence for a go-ahead three-run homer.
Neely, however, quickly made up for the slight miscue. The Crowder lead-off hitter tied the game with a two-run homer in the top of the fifth. The Lady Riders then took the lead for good as Morgan Coleman followed a two-out double by Brooke Hulsey with a two-run blast that put Crowder (20-8) ahead for good.
“When you get a lead, you want to work on keeping it,” Overturf said. “You don’t want to give it right back, but sometimes it’s hard to keep a ball in the ballpark.”
Matzen taught that lesson to Central (3-2) in game one. After connecting on her solo shot in the fourth, Matzen drilled a two-run drive in her very next at-bat to put IHCC up 9-2.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the first homer at that point,” Matzen said. “Home runs don’t matter in the end if you don’t win. I was just concentrating on coming through in my next at-bat and took advantage of a pitch thrown right down the middle.”
It was a great day for the Warriors, who got excellent pitching and hitting to display on their home diamond after having to spend most of the past two weeks indoors working their game away from the harsh southeastern Iowa weather. After a late March snowfall blanketed Hellyer Field on Monday, the hopes of getting in four home games over the two-day Reed Overhead Doors Classic didn’t seem possible.
But after the best stretch of Spring-like weather yet, IHCC found themselves basking in the joy of being in action in Ottumwa for the first time in 2013.
“The fact that we got to come out here on a beautiful day for softball makes it very special for us,” Matzen said. “There’s no place we’d rather be then right here on our diamond. We just have to take advantage of it.”
Indian Hills (6-14) will look to take full advantage of what could be, weather permitting, the start of an eight-game homestand stretching over a five-day span. The Warriors conclude the Reed Overhead Doors Classic today with games against Jefferson College out of Missouri at 2 p.m. before wrapping up the Classic at 6 p.m. against Ellsworth.
IHCC hosts Muscatine in their first Region XI doubleheader Monday afternoon a 1 and will take on DMACC in Ottumwa Tuesday at 3 p.m.
Follow Scott Jackson on twitter at @stjack423.
Indian Hills 9, Central (Nebraska) 2
IHCC 302 220 0 — 9 15 2
CCC 002 000 0 — 2 6 2
Indian Hills battery — Mackenzie Haight (W, 3-3) (5IP, 5H, 2R, ER, 3K, BB), Courtney Collins (1 2/3IP, H, 2K) and Megan Brady (1/3IP, K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
HR — Kaitlyn Matzen 2, Felisha Durflinger, Kendle Schieber.
Hits — Decock 3-4, Durflinger 2-4, Cheyenne Ellis 2-4, Matzen 2-4, Schieber 2-4, Hiliary Pennington 2-5, Olivia Starcevich 1-3, Laci Moore 1-4.
RBI — Matzen 3, Schieber 3, Durflinger, Carrie Hudson, Moore.
Runs — Matzen 3, Durflinger 2, Starcevich 2, Schieber, Jaylinn Tressler.
Central battery — Paige DeLancey (L, 1-1) (3 1/3IP, 11H, 7R, 4ER, K, BB) and Celeste Palensky (3 2/3IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, K), Ashley Kunes catching.
Hits — Palensky 1-1, Kate Behnk 1-3, Caitlin Fehringer 1-3, Maria Glidden 1-3, Lindsey Larson 1-3, Paige Otte 1-4.
RBI — Fehringer 2.
Runs — Otte, Sami Timperley.
Crowder (Mo.) 6, Indian Hills 3
C.C. 100 041 0 — 6 11 0
IHCC 000 300 0 — 3 4 0
Crowder battery — Madison Barnes (W, 11-3) (7IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 5K, BB), Alexis Navarro catching.
2B — Kala Crisp, Brooke Hulsey, Jessica Neely, Shyanne Nichols..
HR — Morgan Coleman, Carson Forge, Neely, Nichols.
Hits — Neely 3-4, Nichols 2-2, Coleman 2-4, Navarro 1-3, Crisp 1-4, Forge 1-4, Hulsey 1-4.
RBI — Coleman 2, Neely 2, Forge, Nichols.
Runs — Coleman, Forge, Hulsey, Navarro, Neely, Nichols.
Indian Hills battery — Kendle Schieber (L, 3-6) (7IP, 11H, 6R, 6ER, 7K, BB), Kaylyn Decock catching.
HR — Felisha Durflinger.
Hits — Durflinger 1-3, Cheyenne Ellis 1-3, Hiliary Pennington 1-3, Schieber 1-3.
RBI — Durflinger 3.
Runs — Durflinger, Kaitlyn Matzen, Olivia Starcevich.