On the verge of starting the conference season with a doubleheader defeat at home Thursday, the Southwestern softball team rallied in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Iowa Central in the nightcap, 8-7.
The Spartans trailed 7-5 entering their last at-bat. Iowa Central, riddled by six players dismissed for disciplinary reasons the previoius night — including three pitchers — was unable to hold off the Spartans with a stretch of wild pitching.
Southwestern took advantage of two walks and three batters hit by pitch before first baseman Leah Kipfer stroked the game-winning hit, driving in the winning run for the 8-7 victory.
Kipfer, who struck out 15 batters before being relieved late in the first game, also banged a solo homer in the opener. But it wasn’t enough as the Spartans fell, 7-4, after entering the final inning with a 3-1 lead.
Banging seven hits in scoring six runs off Kipfer and Courtney Wagner, Iowa Central rallied past a deflated Southwestern team in the first contest.
The split keeps Southwestern (7-3 overall) in an early-third place tie with Iowa Central (9-11) in the conference at 1-1. DMACC (10-0) and Kirkwood (14-3) are co-leaders at 2-0, while Ellsworth and Marshalltown are 0-2.
Not falling into that 0-2 hole heading into a weekend of conference matchups is important, coach Lindsay Stumpff said. The Spartans travel to Kirkwood Saturday before a noon doubleheader at home Sunday against Iowa Lakes (0-0, 5-5).
“I’m thankful for the split, after what happened,” Stumpff said. “It was really hard to get them up again after going into the seventh inning of that first game with the (3-1) lead. Leah had pitched well, but they were starting to pick up on her a little bit, so I thought we’d give them a different look. They just kept hitting.”
Iowa Central took a quick 2-0 lead in the second game. Southwestern pulled back in front, 5-4, but then trailed 7-5 with only one at-bat left.
“I’m proud of the way our girls came back in the second game,” Stumpff said. “They bounced back. Leah (Kipfer) is so clutch. Wagner’s arm is hurting her a little bit, but she pitched good enough to survive. It could have been a lot worse!”
After yielding six runs (two earned) on three hits and two walks in finishing the first game, Wagner hurled seven innings in the winning the nightcap. She scattered 11 hits, four earned runs with four strikeouts and six walks.
Kipfer overpowered Iowa Central for several innings, totaling 15 strikeouts with three walks and eight hits allowed in six innings. She got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth with three straight strikeouts before starting the seventh with two hits allowed.
Center fielder Ashley Brandt was 3-for-3 with a double and RBI in the nightcap. Third baseman Danyielle Barger was 3-4 with two RBI. Shortstop Hannah Sneed was 2-2. Outfielder Kelsey Moore also drove in two runs.
Brandt was also hot in the first game, finishing 3-4 with a double and RBI. Moore was 2-3 with a double. Barger was 2-4 with a double and RBI. Kipfer’s solo shot over the center field fence was in the bottom of the seventh, closing the score to the final 7-4.