Creston softball coach Mike McCabe said there are “building blocks” to be taken from a 9-0 loss to powerful Winterset here Thursday night.
His young team, with seven freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup alongside one senior and one junior, stabilized after falling behind 9-0 in the first three innings.
The Huskies, ranked second in Class 4A behind only Dallas Center-Grimes, a rival from the Raccoon River Conference, were held scoreless by pitcher Haylee LaMasters and her young defense for the final four innings.
Senior pitcher Karly Olson tossed a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts for Winterset. But at least three other sharply-hit balls were “robbed” by standout middle infielders Sammi Nicholson at second base and shortstop Taylor Benshoof, who will play at the University of Northern Iowa next year.
Last year against a more veteran Panther team, Olson racked up 16 strikeouts in a 3-2 victory over Creston in 11 innings.
Freshman Jami Sickels rapped a double and freshman Taylor Briley and sophomore Natalie Mostek each had singles against Olson Thursday.
In the first inning, Benshoof made the play of the night by ranging to her right on a one-hop shot hit by Briley. She planted and fired a strike across the diamond to barely throw out the fleet Panther freshman. Nicholson made a similar play to her right near second base in the second inning on a ball hit by sophomore Brenna Baker.
Senior first baseman Mackenzie Andreasen’s laser-shot liner in the fourth inning was snared by Benshoof at shortstop.
“Those three balls, if they go as hits we end up with six hits by our young kids against a pitcher of that caliber,” McCabe said. “I was proud of our girls, because after those two four-run innings it would have been easy to just act like it was over and wait for the 10th run. Our kids hung in there and kept battling.”
McCabe said extra baserunners through walks and two Panther errors helped pave the way for big RBI hits by Benshoof, Nicholson and Olson in the middle of the Huskies’ order during the four-run rallies in the second and third innings.
“When you’re facing Benshoof with an open base and runners on second and third, I guess I’m OK with a walk there, but then you have to face Nicholson and Olson,” McCabe said. “If you get behind there, there’s not much you can do but come in with something that might get hit pretty good. They key is to get ahead.”
But, LaMasters found a rhythm and kept the Huskies from securing that mercy-rule 10th run for four straight innings. She finished with six strikeouts, six walks and nine hits allowed.
Nicholson finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI. Benshoof drove in three runs on a pair of hits, and Olson had two RBI.
Sickels rapped her double to right center in the second inning, but Olson recorded a strikeout to leave the Panther left fielder stranded.
In the Panther seventh, Mostek hit a spinning one-hopper toward Nicholson and beat it out for a hit, then stole second to get into scoring position. Olson again left the runner stranded, ending the game with a strikeout and two groundouts to Nicholson and Benshoof.
Creston, now 1-1, plays at Class 3A 10th-ranked Osceola Clarke tonight, with JV at 5:30 p.m. Winterset improved to 2-1, having lost to Class 5A Waukee before defeating Perry. Seven starters return from Winterset’s 30-15 state tournament team last year.
Winterset won the JV game, 8-3.
Josie Sickels and Brenna Baker each had two hits for Creston (1-1).
Baker fanned three and walked two in taking the loss, allowing eight Winterset hits. Also pitching were Taylor Briley with a walk and two hit batters, and Josie Sickels with one strikeout and a hit batter.
“We had some good hits, just not enough at the right time,” Creston coach Teri Keeler said. “Our three errors were costly.”
Winterset 9, Creston 0
R H E
Winterset 144 000 0 — 9 9 0
Creston 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
W: Karly Olson 9K 1BB and Kylie McDonald. Cr: Haylee LaMasters 6K 6BB and Natalie Mostek. W — Olson. L— LaMasters. 2B — W: Sammie Nichols 3; Cr: Jami Sickels. RBI — W: Nicholson 3, Taylor Benshoof 3, Olson 2. Multiple hitters — W: Nichols 3, Benshoof 2.