OTTUMWA — Kaity Peden saved her best for last.
The Bulldog senior catcher — 1-for-39 at the plate prior to Saturday night — smacked the game-winning single in the final inning to propel her Ottumwa Bulldog softball squad to a 3-2 victory over 11th-ranked Oskaloosa in postseason play at Huston Field on Saturday.
Ottumwa (18-22) won its ninth straight game and has now defeated head coach Jay Harms’ Osky squad four seasons in a row in regional play.
Ottumwa plays at sixth-ranked Burlington (33-7) in the two team’s Class 4A, Region 8 semifinal tilt tonight at 7 p.m. Burlington won the Mississippi Athletic Conference championship for the first time in school history.
Ottumwa defeated Burlington 2-1 in nine innings last year to advance to the state tournament.
“We have to win two,” said Huston, stating the criteria it will take for Ottumwa to make its 26th state appearance in Fort Dodge.
Peden entered the contest with a .026 batting average and collected her first hit of the season, a double, last week at the Ottumwa Classic. Her single up the box Saturday was just enough for Ottumwa to hold on and to keep a season alive.
“I haven’t hit that much this year, but I felt I needed to do something for the team,” said Peden. “It feels really good as a senior because that could have been my last game.”
Osky (26-9) was shut out for the first six innings due to the effectiveness of Ottumwa sophomore hurler Missy Staloch, who struck out six and didn’t issue an walk.
The Indians plated two runs in the last half of the seventh and had a runner on third with two outs. Staloch induced a chopper back to the mound that she fired to OHS senior first baseman Whitney Reber for the final out.
“I was pretty nervous. They hit it to me and I got it, just smiled and threw it to Reber,” said Staloch, now 7-14 inside the circle.
Ottumwa — attempting to climb out of a hole that has produced the school’s first losing regular season — jumped on top early.
“I don’t care about what people say about the losing season. It’s about how you finish. We’re up. We’re doing great,” said Reber, the team leader in home runs with three.
Paige Schreiner would come around to score after her leadoff double in the fifth. Her run would break a scoreless tie after Courtney Heller’s chopper to third scored the eighth-grade shortstop. Schreiner slid under the tag on the throw from Indian third baseman Ashley Jiminez.
Reber’s double that was smoked up against the wall in left scored courtesy runner Wensday Worth all the way from first in the sixth to make it 2-0 Bulldogs.
“The second run was huge. That kind of gives you one mistake. I guess the third run turned out to be the magic,” said Huston, the second-winningest softball coach in all the nation.
Trailing 3-0, Osky led off the bottom of the seventh with a double by senior Sarah Sterner. She would score on Sarah Hynick’s RBI single up the middle. Osky plated its last run on an RBI groundout.
Indian junior hurler Emily Street pitched well in the loss. She allowed eight hits and struck out six. She did not issue a free pass.
“They play in such a tough conference, they see this kind of pitching night in and night out. Even though we think Emily is a very fine pitcher, to them, they’ve seen that all season long,” said Harms.
Oskaloosa’s season is not over, even with the loss. The Indians will play South Tama in a suspended game either Monday or Tuesday. With a win, Osky will claim themselves as Little Hawkeye Conference co-champs with a mark of 13-3.
“We’re fortunate. We still have one game to go. There are only going to be four other teams than us that have a chance to end on a win — that’s your state champions,” said Harms.
Just once, Harms would like to host Ottumwa in a postseason game.
“I’ve been here 23 years and out of those 23 years, 16 or 17 of them we had to play Ottumwa at Ottumwa. We’ve never hosted them at Oskaloosa. That’s disappointing because it’s nice to play at home,” the Indian coach said.
Ottumwa 3, Oskaloosa 2
OTT 000 011 1 — 3 8 1
OSK 000 000 2 — 2 6 1
Ottumwa battery — Missy Staloch (W, 7-14) (7IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 6K, 0BB), Kaity Peden catching.
2B — Whitney Reber, Paige Schreiner.
Hits — McKenzie Cason 3-4, Tricia Bix 1-3, Reber 1-3, Schreiner 1-3, Courtney Klyn 1-2, Peden 1-2.
RBI — Reber, Courtney Heller, Peden. Runs — Wensday Worth, Schreiner, Klyn.
Oskaloosa battery — Emily Street (L, 12-5) (7IP, 8H, 3R, 3ER, 6K, 0BB), Dan Van Renterghem catching.
2B — Sarah Sterner, Sarah Hynick.
Hits — Ashley Jiminez 1-4, Renee Lenox 1-3, Sterner 2-3, Hynick 2-3.
RBI — Hynick, Street. Runs — Sterner, Amanda Christenson.
OTTUMWA — Kaity Peden saved her best for last.
This Week's Circulars
MOUNT PLEASANT [mdash] Audrey A. Christy, 82, of Mt. Pleasant, died Monday, November 30, 2020 at Arbor Court in Mt. Pleasant. Funeral service will be held 10:00 am on Monday, December 7, 2020 at the Calvary Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant. Burial will be in the Bloomfield IOOF Cemetery. Visit…