Riley Craun nearly single-handily sparked a comeback herself with a hit well over the outfield fence.
After four innings of offensive struggles, South Tama County's softball team received the boost it was waiting for Thursday night. However, the Trojans had already dug themselves too deep of a hole against the opposing South Hardin Tigers.
Despite scoring runs during two of the final three innings, the Trojans were unable to win their second home game of the season. They fell 5-3 to South Hardin.
STC head coach Chelsea Ahrens summed up the loss in two words.
"Timely hitting," Ahrens said. "It's still early in the season, so we're going to have that. It's a good sign that we have girls on base. We had some girls get walked and some key hits, but it's just unfortunate that the ball didn't bounce our way tonight. We played well tonight. We competed."
South Tama's offense struggled during the first four innings of Thursday's game. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and trailing 5-0, Craun cranked a home run over the left field fence. She left no doubt whether it was long enough, only whether it would stay fair. The ball stayed fair and sailed more than 15 feet over the fence and into a tree.
"That was gone immediately," Ahrens said. "It was a line drive. The tree slowed it down for sure. That was neat for her to have."
It was Craun's first-ever home run. She doubted the power of her hit, but enjoyed the excitement of the home run.
"My heart dropped," Craun said. "I was so excited. It felt good to get one my senior year, at least. Hopefully, I'll get another one sometime down the season.
"I honestly thought I popped it up and was out," she said. "I thought I was done, but it was good to see it keep going. I almost stopped in the middle of second base."
Following the home run, STC junior Tori Appelgate hit a opposite field double. The left fielder couldn't make the catch and Appelgate easily made it to second base. Senior Jade Rohach hit Appelgate home with a triple to right-center field.
"I've said all along that it only takes one," Ahrens said. "That was the one that sparked us a bit. Then it started to rain. It seemed like it rained when we were on defense and then it stopped when we were at the plate. (South Hardin) made some plays tonight."
In the sixth inning, junior Hailee Weiss, who went 3-for-3 from the plate, hit a single to start the inning. However, she was picked off stealing second. The next two batters grounded out and struck out, leaving the Trojans behind 5-2 with one inning remaining.
Junior Madison Baack started the seventh inning by reaching first on an error by the Tigers' first baseman. Freshman Belle Tyynismaa advanced Baack with a single, but sophomore Naomi Hoskey came in to pinch run for Baack at second base. Appelgate also reached first on an error, loading the bases with one out.
Rohach hit a ground ball that was fielded and thrown to first. Rohach and the Tigers' first baseman collided after the catch was missed and that scored Hoskey from third base. With runners on first and second bases and two outs down, junior Samantha Holtz struck out looking, ending the game.
"We were really aggressive on the base paths tonight," Ahrens said. "We got thrown out a couple of times, but I think we have to continue to be that way and force other teams to make plays. (South Hardin) did that tonight."
South Tama had twice as many hits as South Hardin. STC recorded 10 hits to the Tigers' five hits Thursday night. South Tama did leave the bases loaded in the second inning after earning three hits during the inning.
"I got down on myself when we had that one inning where they kept going on the two outs," Craun said. "Then (the home run) happened and I thought we could turn it around. We picked it up a bit and I think it helped us."
The Trojans' coach knows her team's hitting will improve, despite struggling in their third game of the season.
"This is their third game," Ahrens said. "They've had less than 10 times up to bat before this game. That's going to happen. We hit this girl really hard last year so we had lot of confidence going into tonight. The difference was we saw them at the end of the year last year. So how many more bats had we had by that point last season? She did a nice job and threw a nice change-up that kept us off balance. We'll see them again toward the end of the year and we'll be better hitters by then and more prepared."
The Trojans played their first home game the night before on May 22. They crushed Wapsie Valley 7-1 after scoring six runs in the first two innings.
"We executed all-around tonight," Ahrens said. "We made some plays. We played well tonight for our second game. It was a good game and first win. Of course, we have things to improve upon."
Craun scored in the first after hitting a single. Appelgate hit the sacrifice RBI in No. 2 line-up spot.
In the second inning, Craun, Appelgate, freshman Madie Bacon, Hoskey and Tyynismaa scored for the Trojans. Appelgate and Rohach each earned two RBIs, while Craun had the other during the game.
Holtz pitched both games for the Trojans. She struck out 10 Wapsie Valley batters.