There was no way for Marshalltown head coach Jeff Lamb to know his team would respond the way it did when Ames took a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning.
But he had an inkling.
The Bobcat softball team answered the Little Cyclones go-ahead run with two of their own, both scoring on Cassidy Blackford's walk-off double to help MHS win the second game of Thursday's CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Cassidy Blackford of Marshalltown rips a two-run single to center field during the third inning of game one in Thursday’s CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader against Ames. Blackford went 3-for-7 with two doubles and four RBIs on the day, including the walk-off winner in the second game as MHS split with Ames.
The 2-1, eight-inning triumph was the fifth time the Bobcats won in their last at-bat this season. Ames came back from an early deficit to defeat the hosts 10-3 in Thursday's opener at the MHS diamond.
Marshalltown (9-15, 5-9) had amassed just five hits over an 11-inning stretch leading up to the bottom of the eighth, not long after Ames (12-14, 2-8) had made the first move on the scoreboard. Kendra Tott laced a leadoff double and Taylor Schumacher singled her home to give the Little Cyclones the advantage.
The Bobcats' pitcher of record, Taylor Vaske, started the comeback with her leadoff single, and her courtesy runner Maddison Wignall raced around to third on Taylor Wagner's double to right-center field.
One out later, Blackford delivered her second walk-off hit this season, hitting the same gap to plate both runners.
Blackford clubbed a two-run homer in Marshalltown's 7-5 win over Class 4A No. 14 Charles City during BCLUW's Comet Invitational Softball Classic two weeks earlier.
"You've got to score to win, so if they're going to score a run and give us some pressure then I like the way we handle pressure," said Lamb. "I think probably more than half our wins have come on walk-off wins and I'm OK with that.
"They don't tighten up and I think that's a huge thing for us. I'm excited about that and we can win tight games, and that's what's going to be the challenge as we get further into it is to see if we can win the tight games against good teams."
Ames pitcher Kate Crow (0-2) held Marshalltown to just three hits and only one good scoring chance through seven innings, but the Bobcats got to her in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Vaske surrendered nine hits but just one run. She did not walk a batter, struck out five and improved to 6-7 this season. Vaske blanked the Little Cyclones in their first meeting this season, tossing a six-hit shutout on June 4 in Ames.
"Taylor did a really good job of keeping them off-balance, and our defense from game one to game two was completely different," said Lamb. "We played outstanding defense (in game two) and that really is the difference in the games."
Wagner went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored to lead MHS in the second game. Hailee Beals, Blackford, Mazour and Vaske each added a hit.
In the opener, Marshalltown made four errors that led to five unearned runs behind Mazour (3-8), who allowed nine hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
Ames scored four runs in the fourth and five more in the sixth to overcome the Bobcats' 3-1 lead.
"Lauren got hit pretty hard in a couple places, but honestly we let her down as a team and that's what we talked about after the first game," Lamb said. "Things are going to happen; if we can be positive, positive things are going to happen to us and the second game was a whole lot better."
Ames' four-run fourth started with Hannah Bonestroo's first home run of the season, and Hannah Bloch added a bases-clearing double for a 5-3 lead.
Bloch added an RBI single before back-to-back two-run hits for Kendra Tott and Claire Rogers in the Little Cyclones' five-run sixth.
Schumacher (1-3) held Marshalltown to just two hits after the third inning, finishing with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Blackford doubled and Quinn Goodman singled her home to tie the game at 1-all in the second. Blackford drove in Madi Bellile and Wagner, who both had singled, with a single in the third.
Wagner, Blackford and Goodman each had two of the Bobcats' eight hits in the first game.
Marshalltown hosts its annual Bobcat Softball Classic starting at 1 p.m. today and 9 a.m. Saturday at the Marshalltown Community College diamonds. MHS meets South Tama at 2:45 p.m. and 3A No. 5 East Marshall at 6:15 p.m.