OTTUMWA — There was very little to be nervous about on Monday night at Huston Field for Ottumwa softball fans.
The seventh-ranked (5A) Bulldogs made quick work of Des Moines North, earning a pair of CIML Metro conference wins with a 13-0 shutout in game one and a 14-0 shutout in game two. Both games needed just three innings and lasted just under an hour as Ottumwa improved to 10-2 on the season and 5-1 in the Metro.
Ottumwa freshman Delaney Stevens, however, admitted to being nervous before stepping onto the field in the second game of the doubleheader at Huston Field. After starting 35 games as an eighth-grader, Stevens made her first varsity start of her freshman season back behind the plate catching Ashton Brown and Ashlynn Sheets on Monday.
For Stevens, it was her first time behind the plate since a 3-2 loss in the Class 5A regional finals at Indianola last July. Just over five months later, Stevens sustained significant injuries to her arm and leg in an automobile accident and has been working her way back physically to be able to compete on the diamond.
"It's been a tough, slow process," Stevens said. "I thought, at first, I was going to get right back into it, but it's gone a lot slower than I thought it would.
"It felt good to be back there. I was nervous at first, but once I caught the first inning, it was fine."
After catching her first inning of varsity softball, Stevens made the most of her second and third swings at the plate in a varsity game. Stevens led off the second inning of game two with a triple and scored her second run of the game moments later on a wild pitch to put Ottumwa up 8-0. Stevens finished the night with a double later in the second inning and reached third on an RBI hit by Sheets, which gave the Bulldogs a 14-run lead.
"Coach (Frank) Huston told me during the third inning of the first game that I might be going in to catch, but he changed his mind. That's when he told me I'd be going to catch the entire second game," Stevens said. "I was nervous at first to get back in there, but I told myself that I was going to do fine. My arm strength is still the biggest thing I'm working to get back completely. If I can get it back, I hope I can return to being a full-time starting catcher."
Huston, who improved to 1,820-501 in his 46th season as Ottumwa head softball coach, talked about his freshman catcher.
"Delaney still hasn't completely recovered from that accident in terms of throwing the softball, but she can help us," Huston said. "It's been an uphill battle for her, but she continues to climb it. She's making progress and we're happy for her."
Huston used Monday's conference doubleheader as a chance to get several players time on the field in varsity competition. Sheets threw the third and final innings of each game in her first varsity pitching appearances, striking out five batters to preserve a no-hitter started by Kacy Nickerson in game one and a perfect game started by Brown in game two.
"Anytime you get on the field, whether you face a top-notch opponent or an average opponent, you learn something and gain by it," Huston said. "The biggest positive for us was that a lot of people got to play. We had girls that got their first varsity at-bats. We had girls that started and played different positions. All we ask of the girls is to focus and get the job done."
North finally put together enough players to put a team on the field for the first time in 2019 after forfeiting a season-opening doubleheader to Grand View Christian and postponing other games due to a lack of players.
On the field, however, North looked like a team that hadn't seen a lot of time on the field. The Polar Bears committed seven errors in just two innings on the field, helping the Bulldogs put away the opening game in less than an hour.
At the plate, Hannah Huisinga had a pair of hits including a two-run triple in the second inning that put OHS up 10-0. North (0-4, 0-2 CIML Metro) had just one batter reach base in three innings as Delicia Oxenreider made it to first after striking out against Bulldog relief pitcher Ashlynn Sheets, only to be caught trying to advance to second.
"Our goal every game is to play at 110 percent no matter who we're playing," Huisinga said. "Anything can happen out there. We always keep our options open to what the opponent is capable of."
The sweep of North starts a busy week of action at Huston Field that includes junior varsity games with Ankeny Centennial and Southeast Polk today as well as a freshman game between the Bulldogs and Rams. OHS hosts Des Moines Lincoln in CIML Metro action on Wednesday, Marshalltown in a CIML crossover doubleheader on Thursday and a varsity triangular Friday featuring Davis County and Mount Pleasant.
Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.
Ottumwa 13, Des Moines North 0
DMN 000 — 0 0 7
OHS 85x — 13 8 0
Des Moines North battery — Briana Shelton (L, 0-1) (2IP, 8H, 13R, 6ER, 2K, HBP), Jocina Shelton catching.
Ottumwa battery — Kacy Nickerson (W, 4-2) (2IP, 4K) and Ashlynn Sheets (IP, 3K), Amber Shotts catching.
2B — Jillian Heaton.
3B — Kaylee Bix, Hannah Huisinga.
Hits — Huisinga 2-2, Heaton 1-1, Abby Bowers 1-2, Bix 1-2, Morgan Greiner 1-2, Zoey Jones 1-2, Nickerson 1-3.
RBI — Huisinga 3, Heaton 2, Bix, Jones, Nickerson.
Runs — Bix 2, Heaton 2, Madelyn Houk 2, Huisinga 2, Jones 2, Bowers, Greiner, Nickerson.
Ottumwa 14, Des Moines North 0
DMN 000 — 0 0 3
OHS 77x — 14 6 0
Des Moines North battery — Jocina Shelton (L, 0-1) (IP, H, 12R, 7ER, 10BB, HBP) and Briana Shelton (IP, 5H, 2R, HBP), Jazzy Brown catching.
Ottumwa battery — Ashton Brown (W, 6-0) (2IP, 5K) and Ashlynn Sheets (IP, 2K), Delaney Stevens catching.
2B — Stevens.
3B — Zoey Jones, Stevens.
Hits — Stevens 2-2, Anne Guest 1-1, Z. Jones 1-1, Sheets 1-1, Amber Shotts 1-1.
RBI — Abby Bowers, Brown, Sheets, Shotts.
Runs — Kaylee Bix 2, Guest 2, Madelyn Houk 2, Madelyn Jones 2, Stevens 2, Bowers, Jillian Heaton, Hannah Huisinga, Z. Jones.