Bob Ligoursi is no stranger to tight tussles on the softball diamond in the City of Bridges.
Bringing highly-rated teams down to Ottumwa for games that went right down to the wire has become something of a yearly tradition for Ligoursi. Usually, that trip comes a little later in the calendar, when the conditions are much different.
“There are usually mosquitoes out and it’s a lot warmer out when I brought my high school teams down here to face Frank’s Ottumwa teams,” the former long-time head coach of the Des Moines East softball program said.
Instead of a warm July night with a CIML Metro Conference title on the line, colder early April southern Iowa weather greeted Ligoursi in his first trip to Ottumwa in his current role as head coach of the DMACC Bears. Moving up to the junior college level has done little to slow down Ligoursi’s winning ways as the second-year program came to Indian Hills Tuesday sporting a perfect 14-0 record and a No. 12 ranking in the NJCAA Division II poll.
Just like the Bulldogs have in the past, the Indian Hills Warriors made life tough for Ligoursi and his softball team. Kendle Scheiber made sure the Bears didn’t leave Ottumwa with a perfect record, tossing a four-hit shutout while driving in two runs of her own in a 5-0 IHCC opening-game win as the Warriors and DMACC split the doubleheader at Romalynn ‘R.L’ Hellyer Field.
After falling behind in game two, 4-0, the Bears rallied back to salvage a split. Jayden Ott collected three hits including a game-tying home run and go-ahead seventh-inning single as the Bears scored the final five runs in a 5-4 nightcap victory.
“We kind of came to life in the second game. I’m proud of the way our girls responded,” Ligoursi said. “We didn’t think we were going 60-0 this season, but it was great to see the girls bounce right back after taking that first loss.”
For the most part, Tuesday was a very positive day for the home-standing Warriors. IHCC scored more runs than DMACC and outplayed the Bears for the first 10 innings of the doubleheader.
Those are certainly positive aspects to build off of for Warriors head coach Jim Overturf. The lack of execution late in a close game, which included a pair of critical errors that allowed a pair of unearned runs to score, were also things Overturf wanted to see his team learn from after having to settle for a home split.
“We still have to learn how to win. We haven’t had a lot of close games like this last one that we’ve had to close out,” Overturf said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet day. I thought we played well all day, but I’m disappointed that our defense let us down in the nitty gritty late in the last game.”
The importance of the Warriors defense was evidence in the success of Schieber, who had one of her best days in the pitching circles in game one against unbeaten DMACC. Facing a team with several Iowa all-state talents, Schieber showed no fear in challenging the Bears on the way to striking out six hitters while not giving up a walk over seven shutout innings.
“I knew my defense was behind me (in that first game),” Schieber said. “Knowing my defense was behind me and I was confident in them, I was able to just it pitch by pitch from that point.”
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I haven’t changed my philosophy,” Overturf added. “I know that equipment has changed to make the game more offensive minded, but I still think if you throw the ball in the right location then you can still win this game with your defense.”
DMACC’s defense opened the door to allow IHCC to open an early 2-0 lead when the Bears allowed Hiliary Pennington to reach base on a fielding error to lead off game one. Schieber came up three batters later and connected on a single that brought home Pennington and Felisha Durflinger to give herself the early lead.
“It’s always nice to have a lead, but it’s certainly a plus to be able to give yourself that lead,” Schieber said.
Sophomore Carrie Hudson padded that lead in the sixth inning, turning a three-run lead into five with one big swing by nailing a two-run home run to left field to put IHCC up 5-0 in the sixth.
“We’re always looking to get those insurance runs whenever we can,” Hudson said. “I just wanted to make contact. Getting two insurance runs that way was huge.”
Kaitlyn Matzen had an even bigger homer to left - a three-run drive in the third inning of game two that sparked a four-run rally that put IHCC ahead in the nightcap. No. 12 (DII) DMACC (15-1) rallied back and snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh as a fielding error by second baseman Liz Penrose kept the inning going for Ott, who singled in Makenna Slight with the winning run.
Indian Hills next plays at the Central Tournament in Nebraska on Friday.
At Romalynn ‘R.L.’ Hellyer Field, Ottumwa
Indian Hills 5, No. 12 (DII) DMACC 0
DMACC 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
IHCC 200 102 x — 5 7 1
DMACC battery — Mari Silliman (L, 7-1) (6IP, 7H, 5R, 3ER, 6K, BB), Jayden Ott catching.
2B — Kaylee Buch.
Hits — Buch 1-2, Kaitli Briley 1-3, Ali Fitzgerald 1-3, Ott 1-3.
Indian Hills battery — Kendle Schieber (W, 4-7) (7IP, 4H, 6K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Schieber.
HR — Carrie Hudson.
Hits — Felisha Durflinger 2-3, Schieber 2-3, Hudson 1-3, Hiliary Pennington 1-3 Olivia Starcevich 1-3.
RBI — Hudson 2, Schieber 2, Laci Moore.
Runs — Durflinger, Cheyenne Ellis, Hudson, Pennington, Jaylinn Tressler.
No. 12 (DII) DMACC 5, Indian Hills 4
DMACC 000 301 1 — 5 8 0
IHCC 004 000 0 — 4 8 2
DMACC battery — Britney Lee (W, 7-0) (7IP, 8H, 4R, 4ER, 2K, 4BB), Carlee Grunder catching.
2B — Jayden Ott, Kaili Wells.
HR — Ott.
Hits — Ott 3-4, Wells 1-2, Ali Miner 1-3, Amanda Widener 1-3, Kaitli Briley 1-4, Grunder 1-4.
RBI — Ott 3, Grunder, Widener.
Runs — Taylor Baggett, Grunder, Miner, MaKenna Slight, Ott.
Indian Hills battery — Mackenzie Haight (4IP, 4H, 3R, 2ER, 2K, BB, HBP), Courtney Collins (2IP, 2H, R, ER, 3K) and Megan Brady (L, 0-2) (IP, 2H, R, 2K), Kaylyn Decock catching.
2B — Felisha Durflinger.
HR — Kaitlyn Matzen.
Hits — Durflinger 2-3, Cheyenne Ellis 2-3, Matzen 1-3, Laci Moore 1-3, Decock 1-4, Kendle Schieber 1-4.
RBI — Matzen 3, Ellis.
Runs — Durflinger, Matzen, Laci Moore, Jaylinn Tressler.