Not all of the 10 games have been easy during the Marshalltown Community College softball team's current win streak.
But whether it's come down to big moments at the plate, in the circle or on the field, the Tigers have responded with clutch play after clutch play.
That was the case again Saturday during the opener of a doubleheader with Iowa Community College Athletic Conference rival Iowa Lakes.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown Community College freshman Tacie Blunk (17) approaches home plate after crushing a two-run home run to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead in game one of a doubleheader Saturday. MCC held on to win the opener 8-7 and then blasted the Lakers, 9-1 in five innings, in game two.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown Community College sophomore Emmeline Huffaker lays down a bunt against Iowa Lakes on Saturday during the Tigers’ doubleheader sweep. MCC won the opener 8-7, took the second game 9-1 in five innings and have now won 10 straight.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown nearly lost leads of 5-1 and 8-3 in the final two innings but Tacie Blunk's two-run homer in the fifth and Sarah Wilson's two-RBI double in the sixth eventually were enough to hold off a charging Lakers squad that has struggled most of the season.
MCC took the opener 8-7 after Iowa Lakes tallied six runs in the final two innings, but then blasted the Lakers 9-1 in the nightcap to earn the conference sweep on Sophomore Day. The victories also extended the Tigers' current win streak to 10 games and locked up the 28th win of the season, which is a new program record.
"It has been a combination of timely hitting and good pitching," said MCC coach Tyrone Robinson of the 10-game win streak. "When you can get runs with two outs, that's a big advantage. That's basically what the game is about."
The 28 victories this season surpasses the 27 games the Tigers won back in 2008. MCC also improved to 14-8 in ICCAC Division II play and those 14 wins are just one shy of another school record that was set the past two seasons.
Iowa Lakes has been on the wrong side of four of the 10 wins by MCC during the streak. Wilson shut down the Lakers twice in Estherville, holding them to just three hits in the doubleheader and the Tigers won both games by scores of 8-0 in five and six innings, respectively.
Wilson was not as effective on Saturday but still did enough to get her 14th win of the season. She surrendered five earned runs on eight hits and struck out six in seven innings. She only gave up one walk and hit a batter. She got out of a big jam in the seventh inning when she got Salina Gonzalez to fly out to end the game with the tying run on second base.
"I just focused in there late and blocked everything around me out," said Wilson, who also had a walk and three runs at the plate in the opener. "I was a little nervous, but I needed to just focus on the batters and we eventually got it done."
The Lakers (13-23, 3-19) scored first in the second inning. An error by the Tigers allowed Kristen King to approach the plate with two outs and she made MCC pay with a run-scoring double.
The Tigers bounced back to take the lead in the bottom of the second frame. MCC was helped by two errors from starting Laker pitcher Jordyn Derflinger and also got an RBI bases-loaded walk from Brooke Dunkin. Another error plated Wilson in the third inning and then Blunk's two-run home run in the fifth made it 5-1. The blast was a no doubter to left field and it was the Tiger freshman's third homer of the season.
"The pitch was down the middle. I was surprised. It was right down the middle in every at-bat and there wasn't much change," said Blunk when asked to describe the pitch she saw on the home run swing. "So I just timed it and got a good swing on it."
Blunk was 4-for-4 in the game with two RBIs and two runs scored.
The Lakers climbed back into the game in the sixth following an RBI double by catcher Jessica Abrahamson. Iowa Lakes made it 5-3 when it added its second run of the inning off an MCC throwing error.
But like they did all afternoon, the Tigers had an answer for everything the Lakers threw at them.
MCC started the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back walks from Dunkin and Lexie Biehl and Mackenzie Gott's sacrifice bunt moved both runners up a base, which allowed Wilson's double to score them both. Brianna James added an RBI single in the frame to put the Tigers up 8-3.
"It was back-and-forth really. When they scored, we came right back and scored and then they scored after us to keep it close," said Robinson. "The key play in the game was when Mackenzie got that bunt down to move runners over and then Sarah came up with the big hit to give us some insurance runs. And we needed every run in that first game."
That's because Iowa Lakes made things interesting in the seventh, scoring four runs on four hits off Wilson. Abrahamson smoked a two-run single and Kylee Posipisil laced a two-run double to make it 8-7, but Iowa Lakes' rally was cut short after Gonzalez flied out to right field with a runner on second base.
"We had opportunities in the first game. We were able to get back in it and gave ourselves a chance to win, which is huge for us," said Iowa Lakes coach Jessica VanLoy. "Marshalltown kind of beat us up in that second game. They beat us up pretty good in the first two games, too, so it was nice to have at least one game where we had an opportunity to win."
The Lakers did not have much of a chance to win game two after issuing nine walks and one hit by pitch to MCC batters.
The Tigers scored four runs in the first inning and got just one hit. Kimberly Frank, who was battling a knee injury suffered earlier in the season, walked the bases loaded three times and Shaiann Treu's RBI single was the lone hit of the frame.
Treu also got an RBI single in the second inning to push the MCC lead to 5-0 and then three more runs crossed the plate in the third thanks to two more bases-loaded walks from reliever Christine Tendal.
Wilson also recorded an RBI single in the three-run third and then got another RBI in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to center field.
"Pitching is a huge key for us. It has been all year," said VanLoy. "We have been down 5-0, 6-0 before and it's tough as batters to come back from that."
The nine runs were more than enough for MCC's starter - Gott. The sophomore from Oskaloosa allowed just two hits in her five-inning complete-game win. She also fanned eight and walked just one in improving to 5-2 on the year.
"She hit her spots and had more energy in the circle today than she did in the last outing and that was key," said Robinson of Gott's performance. "Her mechanics were there today and the ball was moving better, too."
Treu finished with two hits and three RBIs in the second game, while Dunkin and Biehl also had two hits apiece. Blunk walked twice, was hit once and had two RBIs, while Gott and James also walked two times each.
Emmeline Huffaker had three hits and walked once in the opener, while Dunkin also had one hit, two walks and had an RBI and a run scored.
Derflinger took the loss in the circle for the Lakers in game one, while Frank was the losing pitcher after lasting just two frames in the second game. MCC honored its eight sophomores before the doubleheader: Wilson, Gott, James, Dunkin, Huffaker, Kyndal Milder, Whitney Baker and Holli Baker. The Tigers are now 9-1 at home this season. MCC will next host ICCAC Division I conference champion Iowa Western (35-18, 9-3) in a doubleheader on Tuesday. Action begins at 3 p.m. The wins Saturday brings the Tigers to within two games in the loss column of third-place Des Moines Area Community College. The Bears are 14-6 in conference play.