Comets race past IMS

Ashlee Strong (11) makes the turn around first base on the way to second after delivering a double in the fifth inning of a 9-2 win for the Cardinal softball team over IMS on Wednesday afternoon.

KALONA — Kassidy Verrips isn't the only one smiling these days on the Cardinal softball team.

The energized Comets parlayed the momentum of an extra-inning road win at New London on Tuesday with an afternoon road victory at IMS on Wednesday. Alexia McClure and Rachel Lewman each had two-run base hits in a 9-2 win, pushing Cardinal to 8-6 on a season that has seemed to revitalized a program known best for winning back-to-back state championships in 2003 and 2004.

"All of us wanted to win that game at New London really, really bad. After getting that win, it made us feel really, really good," McClure said. "What's great is that, we don't have any seniors this year, and we all know that we can be a good team. One that's capable of making trips to Fort Dodge (for the state softball tournament) this year and next year.

"It feels to be part of a winning season. We haven't had a lot of those in a while."

In fact, Cardinal's last winning season of softball came in 2014 when the Comets finished 17-12. Verrips, who struggled in her first two years as a varsity pitcher for Cardinal, earned her seventh win of this season allowing just one earned run on six hits over seven innings while recording nine strikeouts less than 24 hours after recording 10 strikeouts and driving in four runs at the plate in a 5-4, eight-inning win at New London.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," said Verrips about the quick turnaround. "It's been a lot more fun this year. Picking up those (five) consecutive wins earlier in the season felt amazing. Knowing that my teammates have my back feels great."

Unlike Tuesday night's dramatic win at New London, the Comets never trailed on Wednesday just north of Kalona. Three IMS errors set the table for a four-run rally in the second capped by McClure's two-run single.

Maddie Cloke added an RBI single in the fourth and scored on a two-run double by Lewman, giving the Comets a 7-0 lead. Kinsey Hissen and Ashlee Strong recorded back-to-back doubles to open the fifth, putting Cardinal up 9-1.

Cardinal will be back on the diamond looking for a third straight victory on Monday night at Van Buren. The Comets lost to the Warriors, 9-4, during the home tournament of the Warriors before beating Montezuma the same day to kick off a season-best five-game winning streak.

"The biggest difference this year is to stay positive, not put our heads down and keep smiling," Verrips said. "We're definitely going all the way this year."

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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