South Tama's varsity softball team ended its win-loss streak that lasted for the first 16 games of the season.
Ending of the streak was a positive feeling for the Trojans, who lost three-straight games before each of its first four wins of the season. That streak ended Thursday and they created a new one Friday.
The Trojans battled rival Grinnell on Thursday for six innings, before a strong seventh inning gave them a 5-1 victory on the road. They continued playing well on the road as they crushed Grundy Center, 21-6 in four innings, on Friday evening. STC (6-12) was riding a three-game winning streak heading into Monday.
"They are having a lot of fun," coach Chelsea Ahrens said. "We talked about how we've never won three games in a row. The girls are enjoying coming to the softball field. They finally have confidence in themselves that they are good players."
On Friday, South Tama jumped out to a large lead quickly. STC scored nine runs in the top of the first inning. Grundy Center scored four of those back, but STC held a 9-4 lead after only one inning.
The Trojans' offense continued to roll. They scored two runs in the second inning and four more in the third, taking a 15-4 lead. In the fourth inning, they added six more runs. Although Grundy Center scored two runs in the fourth inning, it wasn't enough to avoid the run rule. STC won 21-6.
"We had a lot of hits," Ahrens said. "They had a few errors, but we had a lot of hits, too. We had 13 hits and we played only four innings. We also ended up with seven walks, which helped us. They had some trouble pitching and they went through three pitchers.
"Defensively, we were missing the left side of our infield," she said. "Hailee Weiss was gone and Dani Stubbs has stitches in her hand after getting cleated at Grinnell. Belle started at short stop for the first time and she played well."
South Tama once again started strong on Thursday at Grinnell. STC scored in the top of the first inning. Leadoff batter Riley Craun hit a single, before reaching second base on a passed ball. Madison Baack moved Craun to third on a sacrifice bunt. Craun scored on a sacrifice fly from Jenn Maus.
"We came out and set the tone by scoring in the first inning," Ahrens said. "We got another run later. We did the little things tonight, like bunts and sacrifice flies."
Grinnell responded with a run of its own to tie the contest. The Tigers' leadoff batter reached first on an STC error. She scored later in the inning, tying the game 1-1. However, that was the last Grinnell scored.
The Trojans added a second run in the third inning. Tori Appelgate led off the inning with a single. Bunts by Craun and Baack moved Appelgate to third, where she later scored on a Maus sacrifice fly to right field.
"We kept putting runners on base," Ahrens said. "I think Tori and Riley were on three times and Maddie kept bunting them over. Unfortunately we weren't able to score them until that last inning. If we keep getting runners on base, good things will happen to us."
South Tama struggled to push runners across home plate for the next three innings. in the sixth inning, Craun was walked before she stole second base. With two outs, Maus hit a blooper into shallow center field that was dropped by the Grinnell second baseman, allowing Craun to score. Two batters later, Jade Rohach hit a 2-RBI single that scored Maus and Samantha Holtz.
"Those runs were just what we needed," Ahrens said. "Jenn helped herself with the sacrifice fly. Then Jade comes up with three strike outs this game, so she was down on herself in the box. But she came up and got a big two-out, two-RBI hit. That was great for her confidence and insurance runs for our team."
South Tama helped itself with runs in the seventh inning. However, the Trojans were able to escape with Grinnell runners on base during each inning. The Tigers had runners at first and third with no outs in the fourth inning, while STC led 2-1. During a steal attempt, the Trojans threw out the runner heading toward second base and caught the other runner at home plate for a double play.
"The girls are doing a great job of getting out of jams," Ahrens said. "We are buckling down on defense and playing with awareness. That was a huge play where we threw out runners at first and third with no outs. That swung momentum back to our side."
Grinnell threatened again in the sixth inning. The Tigers had runners and second and third with one out, after two STC errors allowed them to reach base. However, STC shut the door, allowing no runs. South Tama also closed the door in the seventh inning, when Grinnell had runners on first and second with no outs. The next three batters were retired to end the game.
"It feels good," Ahrens said. "For how hard these girls have been working, it's nice to be able to put two wins together. It's so nice to win back-to-back games against teams we should beat. I was worried that we'd have a let down tonight, because we had such a good win on Tuesday and I gave the girls the day off Wednesday. The girls responded and played well."
The Trojans' three-game win streak was in jeopardy Monday when they hosted East Marshall, who is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A.
"It stinks that we have to play East Marshall after we've played well for three games," Ahrens said. "(Pitcher) Jenn will be gone, too. We will just go out there and play hard. We will do our best not to give them extra runs, because they will get their runs."
South Tama hosts Gladbrook-Reinbeck at home Thursday. It will be a varsity-only night and the game will start at 7 p.m.