The Ottumwa Courier

Sports

April 28, 2012

IHCC seeded fourth in Region XI tourney

OTTUMWA — Two years ago, days after President Barack Obama visited the Indian Hills campus, the fourth-seeded Indian Hills softball team surprised everyone and won the Region XI softball tournament in West Burlington.

On Wednesday, President Obama was back on an Iowa college campus when he paid a visit to the University of Iowa. Once again, the Indian Hills softball team is seeded fourth heading into the Region XI softball tournament in West Burlington.

Indian Hills softball coach Jim Overturf hopes that’s a good omen.

Overturf coached the 2010 IHCC softball squad all the way from the fourth seed in Region XI to a berth in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. There is, however, one big difference between that squad and the Warrior team that will again take the field at Wagner Athletic Complex today.

“We’re playing much better softball than we were playing at this time two years ago,” Overturf said. “I think we got swept in a home doubleheader by Muscatine the day after President Obama visited, so we didn’t go into that tournament with a lot of momentum. Right now, this team is playing their best softball of the year.”

The record backs up Overturf’s point. After struggling below .500 for most of the season, the Warriors enter the postseason with a season-best 31-26 record.

“Our team has really come together. You can feel it in the dugout and all around campus,” freshman Kaitlyn Matzen said. “We’re not stopping either. We’re going to keep progressing until we get to nationals.”

Indian Hills enters the postseason having gone 4-8 in regular season regional play. They will open the tournament at 10 a.m. with the team primarily responsible for that record, No. 20 Iowa Western, who swept all four games against the Warriors — including three wins by a single run.

“We’re looking forward to it a lot,” freshman Paige Blom said of IHCC’s fifth encounter with the Reivers. “We’ve seen their pitchers a lot. We know what they throw and we’re prepared for it.”

“We talk about it every day about we want to take it to them and prove the better team didn’t win those games,” Matzen added.

While Indian Hills has fond memories of regional tournament play in West Burlington, Iowa Western has provided IHCC with many memories of frustration and heartbreak. The Reivers ended the Warriors season last year, coming back from a loss on Saturday with two straight Sunday wins to steal away the regional title.

This season, Iowa Western has squeezed out wins despite being outhit in every game by IHCC. In the last two games played between the two teams, the Reivers used four squeeze bunts to score four of their six runs in 2-1 and 4-3 victories at Hellyer Field.

“It’s not something we’re focusing on specifically. We’re trying to make sure we’re focused on everything defensively,” Blom said. “We’ll be prepared for the suicide squeeze if the situation calls for it, but it’s nice to be able to have a few days off to rest up for tournament play.”

The extra days of practice have allowed Indian Hills to focus in at the plate, using Thursday’s practice to showcase their new hitting confidence. No player is more eager to step up against Iowa Western then Matzen, who missed out on four chances to come up with a two-out go-ahead or game-tying hit in the Reivers’ doubleheader sweep last week in Ottumwa.

“I went in and hit in even more right after those games,” the Warriors’ co-leader in home runs said. “I knew we’d be facing them again in the postsason. I’m not going to go down easy against them. That’s for sure.”

One other thing that favors another potential Cinderella run for IHCC in the regional tournament is how close regional play truly was this season. Nine of the Warriors’ 12 regional games were decided either by one run or in extra innings.

Overturf truly believes that close competition will continue this weekend.

“The seeding doesn’t really mean a whole lot. All four of these teams match-up so close to each other,” Overturf said. “It really will come down to getting that one big hit when the opportunity presents itself. Lately, we’ve been getting those clutch hits. Hopefully, that will continue this weekend.”

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