Exira-EHK senior Maggie Rasmussen struck out eight batters and walked none in Friday’s 10-2 win over Charter Oak-Ute. Spartan center fielder Kealey Nelson catches a fly ball as she nearly collides with Sophia Peppers (19). Spartan junior Sophia Peppers dives back safely into second base ahead of the throw to a Bobcat infielder.

Spartan softball team rebounding from slow start

Exira-EHK caps 3-0 week with win over CO-U

 KIMBALLTON -- For a softball program that’s been to the regional finals four out of the last five years, starting the season with a 2-8 record was unfamiliar territory for Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton.
 But after a rough two-week stretch, the Spartans appear to be on the rebound following Friday’s 10-2 win over Charter Oak-Ute - the team that ended their 2016 season - and at least part of the solution may have something to do with the team’s collective sweet tooth.
 At some point during the team’s early-season slump, head coach Jodee Dixon promised her players she would bring treats the next day after each win. The results have been promising so far as Friday’s win capped a 3-0 week and improved the Spartans to 5-3 in the Rolling Valley Conference (5-8 overall).
 Joking or not, the players say Dixon’s tasty bribes are working, and the coach isn’t going to stop baking just yet. Exira-EHK cracked four doubles and a home run as part of a 13-hit attack against the Bobcats and senior ace Maggie Rasmussen struck out eight batters while walking none.
 “This is a competitive team,” Dixon said. “We come from a competitive school that doesn’t like to lose and they’re not used to losing, so it was kind of getting (to), ‘Well, how do we get out of this?’ We tried different ways and food works, so I’m not going to argue with it. If they keep hitting the ball like they do, I’ll bring the food.”
 Dixon can’t help but laugh, but she’s also not joking. “Cookies, cakes, brownies, root beer floats... When they said food, they’re not lying.”
 Friday’s first inning set the tone for the Sparty’s latest win, starting in the top half when Rasmussen (4-6) allowed three singles before escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with two strikeouts and an infield pop fly.
 Then in the bottom half, a single by Kealey Nelson and an error preceded Sophia Peppers’ third home run of the year, a towering three-run drive to left-center that survived a cross-wind to clear the fence.

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