MCCALLSBURG - The Colo-NESCO softball team honored its lone senior before Friday's home game with conference rival North Tama. And then that senior twirled a four-hitter, added an RBI single at the plate and helped the Royals score an upset win over the Redhawks in an Iowa Star Conference contest.
Erica Babinat struck out four and gave up just two earned runs as Colo-NESCO jumped out to a 6-0 lead and held on to win 6-4 on Senior Night.
"It's very different to be the only senior," said Babinat. "It feels very nice to win one of the last home game in front of our fans. It felt good to get those last two outs myself, too."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
North Tama senior Christy Calderwood, left, jars the ball free from Colo-NESCO junior catcher Kylie Sarver during an Iowa Star Conference matchup in McCallsburg. Calderwood scored on the play but Colo-NESCO walked away with a 6-4 win on Senior Night.
Babinat got a strikeout and caught a line drive for the final out as she finished off her sixth win of the season against a Redhawk squad that came into the game with five players hitting better than .400.
"We weren't ready to play mentally and it cost us," North Tama coach Bob Cue said. "They are a good enough team that you can't get down 6-0 and expect to win. We worked hard to come back, but we didn't get it done."
The Royals finished with six hits and took advantage of five North Tama errors in the victory.
Colo-NESCO (8-15) scored one run in the first without getting a hit and then plated three in the second after a two-run triple by Hannah Buseman. Kylie Sarver's RBI groundout made it 4-0 and the lead grew to 5-0 in the third when Samantha Riese doubled and then scored after Shayla Dean was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice.
Buseman finished 2-for-3 with two runs, two RBIs and a walk to lead the Royals' offense.
Babinat helped herself and finished off the Royals' scoring in the fourth with an RBI single that scored Sarver, who reached on a bunt single. Three of Colo-NESCO's six hits came in the fourth inning.
"We have been hitting the ball pretty well lately," Colo-NESCO coach Stan Oppedahl said. "We are a much better team right now then we were at the beginning of the year. Things are coming together and we are starting to hit."
Babinat's only shaky inning was the fifth when she walked or hit the first four batters that came to the plate. The Redhawks (14-7) eventually turned those free passes into two runs as Courtney Stuart and Shannon Stuart both scored on the same wild pitch to crack the scoreboard.
Two errors by the Royals allowed two more runs to cross for North Tama in the sixth, but Babinat worked her way out of trouble after not giving up a hit in the frame.
"We ran the bases aggressively and there were a lot of good things that happened today," Cue said. "These are tough losses, but it's a part of the game sometimes."
The play of the game came in the seventh inning. After Anna Kvidera led off the frame with single, Allie Zobel smoked a line drive into the gap in center field, but Royal junior Madison Farren ran down the ball, made the catch and saved a run.
"That was amazing," said Babinat, who appreciated the effort from her center fielder. "That play was big. She has stepped up for us. She has made a lot of great catches this year."
Cue credited Farren for making a great catch. If the ball gets over Farren's head, it likely cuts the Redhawk deficit to 6-5 with no outs and a runner on at least second base.
"That center fielder made a great play on that ball," Cue said. "We hit the ball hard, but it was right at them a lot of times."
Once losers of 10 straight games earlier this season, the Royals have now won four of their last five (counting forfeits) and have played much better of late, according to Oppedahl.
"The lead sure did help us tonight," Oppedahl said. "We blew the lead last night and had some more errors in that game. I am real proud of the kids now though. They are sure coming along. They never got down. We didn't have very good luck at first, but they kept coming and always had a good attitude."
Babinat (6-13) got the win in the circle after allowing four hits and two earned runs. She fanned four, walked five and hit one.
"It feels good to get this win under our belts," said Babinat, who also came into the game hitting a team-best .303 on the season. "(North Tama) is a good team so it's a good team win and a good win for us in the conference."
Emma Knoop (10-6) took the loss for the Redhawks. She pitched the first four innings and allowed six earned runs and six hits while striking out one and walking two. Madison Howard tossed the final two innings, did not allow a hit and struck out four.
The loss snapped North Tama's two-game win streak. After starting 10-2, the Redhawks are now 4-5 in their last nine games. ... Colo-NESCO's two forfeit wins came against Meskwaki Settlement School and Tripoli. ... North Tama's Sarah Howard came into the game hitting .588 but went 0-for-4 on Friday. Sam Zobel (.431), Knoop (.417), Whitney Pokorny (.417) and Kvidera (.409) also are hitting better than .400 this season. ... Kvidera had two hits and a walk to lead the Redhawks at the plate, while Christy Calderwood also had a hit, a walk and a run scored. ... North Tama will next play at 5 p.m. Monday in a make-up game against GMG and then travels to East Buchanan for a 5:30 p.m. game Tuesday. Colo-NESCO next travels to CAL on Tuesday.