Cyclones clear Atlantic softball hurdle, 3-0

Schaben pitches three-hit shutout, drives in all three runs as HCHS lengthens Hawkeye Ten lead

 HARLAN (June 24) -- It’s a Senior Night that Morgan Schaben won’t soon forget.
 Harlan Community’s lone senior (or junior) on the softball roster, Schaben pitched a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and drove in all three of her team’s runs here Monday night as the Cyclones topped Atlantic 3-0 to take a firm grip on first place in the Hawkeye Ten and halt a dry spell against one of their chief conference rivals.
 HCHS had lost six straight meetings and eight out of nine vs. the 13th-ranked (3A) Trojans, including a 6-5 loss June 4 in which the Cyclones hurt themselves by committing five errors and issuing five walks.
 In the rematch, Schaben walked just one batter, the defense played error-free and catcher Madison Schumacher gunned down two potential base stealers at second. Atlantic, meanwhile, committed two errors and pitcher Olivia Engler walked one - base runners that accounted for all three Cyclone runs.
 HCHS improved to 20-5 overall and 13-1 in the H-10 standings, taking a two-game lead in the loss column over the Trojans (21-6, 12-3), who have suddenly lost three straight league games.
 “Beating (Atlantic) just reassures how good we are and how good we’ve become. It’s just awesome,” said Schaben.
 The last time HCHS beat the Trojans was June 7, 2016 - Cyclone head coach Brooke Wilson’s first game coaching in the series. Harlan won 8-2 as then-freshman Hayley Hopkins pitched a complete game.
 A few of the last six games have been close since then, but the Cyclones were unable to get over the hump until Monday night. It’s a mental hurdle which Wilson believes is big for the program.
 “Earlier in the season we knew Atlantic was beatable,” she said. “We just beat ourselves that first time around and this time we just played our game no matter what. Against a tough team like that that’s beat us so many times in the past, it’s a huge hurdle for our program to be able to beat Atlantic because they’re consistently good every year.”
 Atlantic committed two errors in the game and both times the Cyclones pounced on their opportunity.
 With two out in the bottom of the third, Kate Heithoff reached on a throwing error by the shortstop and Aurora Miller followed with a sharp single to right. Schaben also delivered an opposite field single moments later and Heithoff slid home safely with the game’s first run.
 HCHS struck again in the fifth, starting with a dropped fly ball in left field off the bat of Tianna Kasperbauer. Heithoff drew a one-out walk and with two outs, the Trojans elected to pitch to Schaben, a .500 hitter. For the second straight at-bat Engler got two strikes on Schaben when she chased an outside pitch, but her 1-2 offering caught too much of the plate and Schaben rifled a line drive over the right fielder’s head for a two-run double.

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