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Trojans battle back for cross-county victory

Ellenbecker homers, Cremeans with a walk-off in extras

July 8, 2019
By Allison Graham - Sports Editor (agraham@tamatoledonews.com) , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

The two largest high schools in Tama County came together to compete on the softball field on the evening of Thursday, June 28th. South Tama (5-25) hosted North Tama (5-14) in a matchup that, in its third straight year, has made for some close and exciting games.

STC sophomore Ashlynn Ellenbecker made her 23rd start of the season, matching up against fellow sophomore Megan Popelka and the North Tama Redhawks. Both teams were hungry for a win, each coming in with multi-game losing streaks.

North Tama struck a heavy blow early in the game as the first two Redhawk batters reached base on an error and were driven across the plate after senior catcher Carissa Calderwood blasted a two-run double deep into the outfield. The Trojans were unable to score in the bottom of the first and headed into the second inning trailing 3-0.

Article Photos

South Tama’s Jordyn Cremeans (fourth from the left) celebrates with her team after her walk-off single in the eighth inning gave STC a 9-8 victory over North Tama on Thursday, June 27.
Chronicle Photo/Allison Graham

Ellenbecker struck out the side to start the second inning but the Trojans also went three up and three down with their turn at the plate.

Both teams got their bats swinging in the third inning. North Tama's Molly Kvidera and Mary Lycett started the inning each with bunt singles. Calderwood, Chloe Feisel, and Emily Bradley each drove in a run before the inning was over to give North Tama a 6-0 lead. The Trojans held strong however and responded with a big third inning of their own. Shelby Slaven led off for STC with a single. Ellenbecker was next with a hard hit line drive double into the left field fence. Sophomore Gwen Upah kept things going with a grounder to the shortstop that ultimately scored Slaven from third, getting the Trojans on the board. First baseman Abby Sandvick then knocked in two more runs with a grounder that got past the North Tama infield, allowing Ellenbecker and Upah to cross the plate and narrow the score to 6-3.

North Tama kept the hits coming in the fourth inning but failed to push any runs across, stranding two runners on base. South Tama also exited the fourth inning without any additional runs.

The Redhawks managed to keep the Trojans at a three run advantage all the way into the bottom of the sixth inning. Slaven again got the Trojans started, reaching base on a walk, bringing up Ellenbecker and the top of the Trojans' batting order. Power hitting was the name of the game for Ellenbecker as she tore into another pitch from Popelka, this time sending it over the fence for a two-run home run, her second homer of the season.

STC head coach Chelsea Ahrens noted the impact of Ellenbecker's home run saying, "Ashlynn's home run was a real momentum changer. It brought us right back into the game and showed our team that we can hit this pitcher."

The Trojans scored one more run in the bottom of the sixth after Upah reached base on an error and Sandvick drove her in with a sacrifice fly ball.

Headed into the seventh inning the teams were knotted at 6-6. The Redhawks started the inning with Lycett grounding out to Ellenbecker in the pitcher's circle. Then it was McLean and Calderwood reaching base, each with line drive hits into the outfield. With runners on first and second base, Fiesel hit a grounder that would ultimately score McLean from first after an overthrow error sent the ball into foul territory. The Trojans were able to shut off the scoring by the Redhawks but would go into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 7-6.

Errors continued to cost the Redhawks in the seventh inning. STC started with a strikeout by Makayla Backen but would get the next batter, Jordyn Cremeans, on base after a throw from the pitcher to first base was bobbled. Alyssa Chyma then grounded into a fielder's choice, forcing Cremeans out at second, leaving the Trojans with two outs and a runner on first. Slaven was then walked, bringing up Ellenbecker who had already doubled and homered earlier in the night. Ellenbecker came through again for the Trojans, this time with a double to left field that scored Chyma from second and tied the score at 7-7. Popelka and the Redhawks forced the game into extra innings after Upah flied out to left field for the third out of the inning.

While the Trojans had landed some emphatic blows late in the game, North Tama refused to go away quietly. Sable Fehr started the inning with a double to right field followed by Popelka who laid down a bunt and outran the throw to first. Then it was freshman Kierra Dronebarger who hit a sacrifice ground ball that scored Fehr from third and retook the lead for North Tama 8-7. Ellenbecker quickly responded however, forcing the Redhawks into two groundouts to end the inning.

The Trojans came into the bottom of the eighth inning with the middle of their batting order due up at the plate. Sandvick started with a ground ball single followed by a bunt single from Morgan Haughey. With runners on base, STC's next two batters hit into outs, bringing up Cremeans, the designated player. After battling with Popelka for a couple of pitches, Cremeans connected with a pitch and plunked the ball just far enough behind first base to allow Sandvick to escape across the plate for a walk-off 9-8 victory.

After the game Cremeans reflected back on her walk-off single saying, "After we got the second out I was nervous knowing that I was up next. I got two strikes and then I hit the ball but wasn't sure if I'd make it to first. And when I saw it go into the outfield and my foot finally hit first base, I just wanted to cry. It was really amazing, I felt incredible in that moment."

Ellenbecker and Sandvick led the offense for STC, each totaling 3 hits and 3 RBIs. It was a team effort however as every one of the STC batters contributed either with a hit, run, or a stolen base. Ellenbecker got the win and turned in another quality performance from the pitcher's circle, striking out seven while allowing only one walk and one earned run.

"I told the girls after the game, this was a great win. You battled back twice. You're down 3-0 to begin with and you kept chipping away and that was great," remarked Ahrens.

The victory on Thursday pushed the Trojans to their highest win total (4) since the 2014 season when South Tama was competing in the NICL Conference.

 
 
 

 

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