OTTUMWA – It wasn’t exactly the ending Kassidi Henderson would have scripted.
As she rounded third base with the run that would close out a dominant night of softball for her team, Henderson was surprised to hear head coach Frank Huston tell her to hold up at third.
Henderson quickly tried to turn back to for third, only to find a not-so-pleasant surprise awaiting her at third base.
“I saw Chelsea (Griffiths) standing at third, so then I just ran home,” Henderson said.
So even with the defense of Des Moines Roosevelt having the jump on her, the Bulldog sophomore had no choice but to make a dash for the plate and hope for the best. While it may not have been how she would have drawn it up, somehow Henderson found a way to cap a great night for herself and her team by sliding home as a throw the plate was dropped to allow Ottumwa to score the 10th and final run of a 10-0 five-inning game two victory.
Call it a nearly perfect night for Henderson and the top-ranked Bulldogs.
“I would have rather just ran home and not have gotten held up,” Henderson said of the final play. “Overall, though, it was a pretty good night.”
To say the least. Individually, Henderson had perhaps the biggest night of her softball life going 4-6 at the plate with her first ever home run on the varsity level as well as six RBI and three runs scored.
As a team, Ottumwa capped a week that started with the Bulldogs suffering their first losses of the summer by earning two CIML Metro Conference wins in a mere nine innings. OHS followed up a 12-0 win in just four innings in the opening game by ending game two with six runs in the fifth to evoke the 10-run five-inning mercy rule.
Suddenly, one frustrating Monday night in Indianola was a seemingly very distant memory.
“I think the Indianola game really taught us that we always have to be at our best all the time. We can’t take anybody for granted,” senior Katie Sammons said after collecting four hits, three RBI and two runs against the Roughriders. “We’re a pretty confident, offensive team anyway. We got those two big wins Wednesday at Des Moines East and it seemed like it made us even more confident coming into (Thursday).”
Henderson’s confidence shot through the roof after her first swing of the night yielded unexpected results against the Roughriders. With two on and one out in the second inning of game one, Henderson hit a deep drive that the sophomore thought initially was just hoping would be good enough to be a sacrifice fly out to right center to score Ellie Hammack.
As she hit first base, Henderson learned she’d be joining Hammack, Ashlyn Thompson and a whole host of very happy teammates at home plate after her deep fly ball sailed over the fence.
“I thought maybe it was just going to pop out and be an out. I definitely didn’t think it was going out,” Henderson said. “When I rounded first and saw it was over the fence is the time I realized it was a home run. It felt really good to show everyone I could step up and hit well for this team.”
No one was happier for Henderson than Sammons, who hit her team-leading seventh round-tripper 24 hours earlier in a 3-2 game-two win at Des Moines East.
“I’m really proud of her. She’s really stepped up and taken over that shortstop position,” Sammons said of Henderson. “Her hitting’s really awesome. She’s just a really good part of our team.”
Seniors like Sammons have certainly made the transition easier for a young player like Henderson, who took over as the starting shortstop for one of Ottumwa’s all-time great players, Paige Schreiner. As a result, Henderson is currently Ottumwa’s second leading hitter behind Sammons with a .500 batting average and .735 slugging percentage.
“She’s surrounded by a great core of players and people,” Huston said. “I think that makes her a little more relaxed. Anytime you can perform like that, it’s just a bonus.”
“We really welcomed her in a lot,” senior Sammy Garret added about Henderson. “I’ve never had the sense she’s been nervous or scared. She’s really stepped up and fit in well.”
There were a lot of bonuses for the Bulldogs on Thursday night, including for Garrett who got the bonus of being able to drive in runs from her lead-off spot twice. The center fielder capped a four-hit night with a two-run double in game two, which brought in Henderson on the unusual dash for home, after closing out Ottumwa’s third-straight four-run inning in game one with a two-run single in fourth.
“I think, as a team, we needed a wake-up call and we got that on Monday night,” Garrett said. “Losing those two games, especially the way we lost them where we let two leads slip away late, made even more determined not to let it happen again. As a team, we were focused on backing up our pitchers and getting our hits in early and often.”
In the end, Ottumwa (16-2, 10-2) finishes the week exactly where they started as the top-ranked team in Class 5A. The losses to the defending state champions of Class 4A did not change the Bulldogs’ standings in the minds of the IGHSAU.
“I thought our spot might be in jeopardy after losing those two games,” Garrett said. “When we found out it wasn’t, it just served as more motivation. We’ve still got our spot at number one. Now we have to work to keep it.”
As they move into next week, which will begin with a CIML Metro doubleheader against Des Moines North Monday at 6 p.m. and conclude with a 40-year celebration of Huston tenure as Bulldog softball coach, the mentality of winning each and every night out also hasn’t changed.
“We were disappointed that we didn’t win (Monday). We feel like we have the kind of team that can win every game on our schedule,” Huston said. “Even though that can’t happen, that’s still our mentality going forward.”
No. 1 (5A) Ottumwa 12,
Des Moines Roosevelt 0 (4)
Roosevelt 0 0 0 0 — 0 1 3
Ottumwa 0 4 4 4 — 12 13 1
D.M. Roosevelt battery — Jillian Brown (L, 2-4) (3IP, 13H, 12R, 9ER, 3BB), Kaitlyn Williams catching.
Hits — Emily Swanda 1-2.
Ottumwa battery — Mandi Moore (W, 9-2) (4IP, H, 5K), Beth Overturf catching.
2B — Kassidi Henderson.
HR — Henderson.
Hits — Henderson 3-3, Katie Sammons 2-2, Overturf 2-3, Olivia Roark 2-3, Sydney Strunk 1-2, Sammy Garrett 1-3, Nicole Peyton 1-3, Alexis Winn 1-3.
RBI — Henderson 5, Garrett 2, Sammons 2, Chelsea Griffiths, Peyton, Strunk.
Runs — Ellie Hammack 3, Henderson 3, Ashlyn Thompson 2, Chloe Davis, Garrett, Peyton, Strunk.
No. 1 (5A) Ottumwa 10,
Des Moines Roosevelt 0
Roosevelt 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 1 4
Ottumwa 0 0 0 0 0 — 10 12 1
D.M. Roosevelt battery — Jordan Summers (L, 3-5) (4 1/3IP, 12H, 10R, 6ER, BB), Kaitlyn Williams catching.
Hits — Nani Hill 1-1.
Ottumwa battery — Brittni Vogt (W, 5-0) (5IP, H, 2K, 2BB, HBP), Beth Overturf catching.
2B — Sammy Garrett, Katie Sammons.
Hits — Sydney Strunk 3-3, Garrett 3-4, Kassidi Henderson 2-3, Sammons 2-3, Overturf 1-3, Alexis Winn 1-3.
RBI — Henderson 3, Garrett 2, Chelsea Griffiths, Peyton, Sammons.
Runs — Sammons 2, Strunk 2, Garrett, Ellie Hammack, Henderson, Overturf, Ashlyn Thompson, Madison Wiley.