One key hit awayIMS leaves eight runners on base in a 1-0 loss at Wapello
WAPELLO — IMS stranded eight runners on base during Wednesday’s Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division softball game at Wapello. The host Arrows stranded seven. But Wapello was able to score a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and it was enough for a 1-0 victory.
“It was so nice [to finally score],” Wapello sophomore Kristen Keen said. “It was just good to get a run and get the win.”
Keen, who had just three hits in her previous 12 at-bats, led off the sixth inning with a double into left field.
“She’s been struggling, but I knew she had it in her,” Wapello head coach Shannon Salazar said of Keen. “She just had to believe in herself when she stepped up to the plate.”
Keen credited a pep talk from Salazar when asked how she came up with her key hit.
“When we came into the dugout, [Salazar] told us to close our eyes and picture ourselves hitting the ball,” Keen said. “And then right before I stepped up to the plate, I pictured myself hitting the ball. I took a deep breath, and I guess it just came.”
But Wapello, which had stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings and had squandered Ashley Hahnbaum’s leadoff triple in the fourth inning, still had to find a way to get Keen home. Hahnbaum moved Keen to third base with a sacrifice bunt, and then senior Kaitlyn Small struck out after trying to lay down a bunt. But a wild pitch from IMS senior Laura Hochstetler allowed Keen to sprint home for what would prove to be the winning run.
“We tried to bunt her home, and we couldn’t get that to work out for us,” Salazar said. “So I told her, find a way, any way, to get in there, and she made it happen.”
With the win, Wapello improved to 8-3 overall and a perfect 6-0 in North Division play.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Salazar said. “We’re working for that goal of winning a conference championship. These girls have been playing a lot of ball together in the off-season, and it’s starting to show.”
When Keen scored, it was the first run scored off of Hochstetler in 18 innings. After pitching back-to-back shutout victories over Columbus and Winfield-Mt. Union, Hochstetler worked her way out of trouble during the game’s first five innings. She allowed just four Wapello hits in six innings, striking out seven batters and walking one.
“She doesn’t get rattled,” IMS head coach Kim Wood said. “She’s stoic. That was just an unfortunate thing that happened.”
Wapello sophomore Allison Klenk won the pitcher’s duel. She also battled her way out of jams, and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings. Klenk struck out seven batters and walked three.
“She’s our workhorse,” Salazar said of Klenk. “We’ve come to rely on her. She’s a sophomore, but she’s pitching like a junior or a senior because she’s been out there. This is her second full season. She gets strikeouts when we need them, but she also hits her spots to get the batters to hit a ground ball or pop up to our defense.”
It was a tough loss for IMS (3-3, 3-3 SEISC North), which left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings. Senior Naomi Miller, senior Casey Perez and sophomore Demi Brezina each had hits for IMS.
“It’s always frustrating when you leave a lot of runners on base and you know you can hit the ball, but that’s just how it goes sometimes,” Hochstetler said.