Missing four starters and seven players overall, the South Tama County softball team has struggled during two home games at the beginning of this week.
The Lady Trojans' are dealing with missing players who are attending the STC band and choir week-long trip to New York City. The missing starters are pitcher Samantha Holtz, second baseman Madison Baack, third baseman Belle Tyynismaa and right fielder Catie Collins.
Despite the players gone for a week, the Lady Trojans season must continue and it did Monday and Tuesday. They hosted a pair of non-conference opponents, whose combined record is 17-6, in Newton and Benton Community. The Lady Trojans were outmatched and lost both games by run-rule.
"We did make a couple of errors that cost us some runs, but that wasn't going to make the difference whether we won or lost," Ahrens said Tuesday. "They were hitting the ball very well. I thought they might have trouble adjusting to a slower pitcher, but they did well their second time around."
On Tuesday, the Trojans hosted Benton, who entered the game 14-1. Freshman Kallie Hala made her second-straight start for the Lady Trojans. Benton scored one run in the first inning after the leadoff batter began the game with a double. She scored when the fourth batter hit an RBI single. Hala shut down the Bobcats in the second inning with a strikeout, groundout and pop fly to centerfield.
Benton broke the game open in the third inning. With one out, the Bobcats earned a walk before cranking a two-run home run. They repeated the same process after another out. The second home run gave the Bobcats a 5-0 lead after three innings.
The Bobcats continued to pour it on in the fourth inning. They started with a two-run double that was followed by another two-run home run. They added another two runs later in the inning. Then the Bobcats capped off the game with a three-run home run over the left field wall that gave them a 12-0 lead, which is how the game ended.
Meanwhile, South Tama's batting struggled all night. The Lady Trojans managed only twice to put the ball in play Tuesday night. Both were groundouts at first. The other 10 outs in the four innings were strikeouts.
"It's nothing to hang our heads about," Ahrens said of the loss. "This just proves to me that we aren't ready for the WaMaC and we never will be. This isn't even the best team in the WaMaC. We have to shake it off and move on."
On Monday, the Lady Trojans hosted Newton in their first game without the four starters. Hala was once again the starting pitcher. STC gave up four runs to the Cardinals in the second inning, but responded with three runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Naomi Hoskey first reached base on a walk as the No. 9 hitter. Senior Riley Craun hit a single to follow Hoskey, before junior Tori Appelgate loaded the bases with a single to left-centerfield. Senior Jade Rohach next reached first and scored Hoskey. Junior Hailee Weiss scored Craun on a fielder's choice and freshman Dani Stubbs hit an RBI single to score Rohach.
"What I was really impressed with tonight was our batting," Ahrens said. "We put the ball in play and made them make plays. We hit some out to centerfield, but anything out in centerfield, their centerfielder is going to make a catch on."
Newton added another run in the fourth and the game stayed at 5-3 for the next two innings, until Newton took control of the game in the sixth inning. The Cardinals scored three runs, two of which came on walks, as they built an 8-3 lead. They added a pair of runs in the seventh inning as they won the game 10-3.
"It was a good game overall," Ahrens said. "We just had a bad sixth inning. We gave up too many walks tonight. That's kind of been our story this season. It's not just Kallie, Sam has been victim to that, too. Walks are runs a lot of times and so that's come back to hurt us a bit. In the earlier innings, we had some walks but we were able to get out of those. We did walk in two or three runs and you can't do that against a good team like that."
Ahrens was proud of her younger players for stepping up and playing valuable varsity innings to fill in for the missing starters.
"Madie Bacon stepped up in left field and make a nice catch," Ahrens said. "Naomi made some great plays. Those are girls that haven't played much varsity."
"This will be good experience for her on the varsity level," Ahrens said of Hala. "I think she's pretty upset with how she did, because she's done better. Also, the zone tonight was small and moved a lot, so you can't fault her for that. There were many pitches that could have gone the other way."
South Tama played a pair of games on Saturday in Vinton. STC played the host Vikings in the opener and lost 6-0, but came back to beat Belle Plaine 12-10.
In the opener, the Lady Trojans were again missing some players, but this time was because of the ACT exam. Junior Trisha Walz, Baack and Weiss were all missing from the STC infield. Vinton scored three runs in the second inning, one in the third and two in the fourth inning.
"Kallie pitched a great game in the opener," Ahrens said. "For them to take it 6-0 sounds bad, but we played well. The first time we playd them, we lost 10-0 in five innings. We played a full seven. We just had some costly errors and it probably should have been 3-0. We had some young kids fill in and they made a few mistakes that were costly."
South Tama led 3-0 in the second game after scoring three runs in the third inning. Belle Plaine rallied and took a 6-3 lead after the fourth inning. Then STC's missing starters returned and sparked a Lady Trojans comeback.
STC scored four runs in each of the next two innings and held Belle Plaine to one run during that time. Despite Belle Plaine scoring three runs in the final inning, STC was able to win 12-10.
"Our three girls that were missing came in the fifth inning of the second game," Ahrens said. "Trisha and Hailee got hits and we came back to take the lead. It was exciting. It was a good game and nerve-racking."
South Tama will be back in action on Monday at Grundy Center.