By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA – Chloe Miller’s quest to become just the 10th player in Iowa state history to ever become a four-time large school first-team all-state softball player was hardly stalled at all Friday afternoon at Huston Field.
On a day meant to celebrate a man who has helped make several all-time great players and several all-time great teams over four decades, both may very well have been on display without Frank Huston or the Ottumwa Bulldogs even setting foot on the field in the opening game of the inaugural Ottumwa Invitational Friday. Miller kicked her day off by going 4-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run scored as the second-ranked Spartans beat sixth-ranked Waukee 7-4 in the first of three games between top-six teams in Class 5A.
The Warriors did themselves no favors in the field. Three errors by Waukee helped Pleasant Valley extend three innings, leading to four unearned runs for the Spartans.
Ericka Miller added two hits, including a double and a run in the seventh after the Warriors cut a 6-0 lead in half with a sudden three-run home run by Kylie Mickelson in the bottom of the sixth. The Warriors got the tying run to the plate in the same inning before Spartan relief pitcher Holly Hoelting came on to strike out pinch hitter Abby Krantz and force Claire Dudek into an inning-ending groundout.
“You’ve got three good teams here at this tournament, so that’s great for all the teams involved to play in two good games apiece and find out where you’re at as you head toward postseason play,” Waukee head softball coach Carrie Embree said. “You want to face the best of the best and find out where you’re at and what you need to improve on.”
Embree also talked about what it meant to play in a tournament that is centered around celebrating the 40-year history of Frank Huston and his Ottumwa Softball program. All the memorabilia of the winning Bulldog softball tradition was on the display Friday night, including several former players that made both long and short trips back to Wapello County for the weekend.
“Frank is very well known and has done some really great things in this sport,” Embree said. “Just to be around this atmosphere and be a part of this tournament is an honor. The girls can learn a lot from all of this. They can learn a lot about the game and being a part of team just from seeing the history on display here.”
No. 2 Pleasant Valley 7, No. 6 Waukee 4
P.V. 103 002 1 — 7 9 1
Wa. 000 003 1 — 4 5 3
Pleasant Valley battery — Ashley Yattoni (W, 9-2) (5 1/3IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 2K, 3BB, HBP) and Holly Hoelting (S, 1) (1 2/3IP, K, BB), Haley Smith catching.
2B — Chloe Miller 2, Ericka Miller.
Hits — C. Miller 4-4, E. Miller 2-3, Hoelting 2-4, Maddie Reynolds 1-4.
RBI — C. Miller, E. Miller, Reynolds.
Runs — Reynolds 2, Brianne Alman, Sydney Dwyer, Hoelting, C. Miller, E. Miller.
Waukee battery — Kate Menz (L, 11-3) (7IP, 9H, 7R, 3ER, 7K, 4BB, HBP), Tayler Luther and Alex Shepherd catching.
HR — Kylie Mickelson.
Hits — Callie Feaker 1-2, Miranda Tiefenthaler 1-2, Nicole Tennant 1-3, Mickelson 1-4, Shaye Witte 1-4.
RBI — Mickelson 3, Feaker.
Runs — Feaker, Taylor Hulsing, Mickelson, Tennant.