HCHS splits competitive softball twin bill with Panthers

 HARLAN (June 1) -- Senior Emily Brouse pitched a three-hitter and finished game two with a walk-off RBI single Tuesday night as the Harlan Community softball team salvaged a split of its Hawkeye Ten doubleheader with Creston.
 In a matchup of state-ranked, Class 4A foes, the No. 12 Panthers took game one by a 6-3 final score while the No. 13 Cyclones won the night cap 4-3, improving to 2-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall.
 HCHS trailed 2-0 after an inning in game two and 3-1 after three, but kept chipping away to earn the split. Senior Julia Schechinger had RBI hits in all three of her at-bats, including a second-inning double to right-center, a fourth-inning popper that landed untouched in the pitching circle and a sixth-inning single that knotted the score at 3-3. All three hits came with two outs.
 In the bottom of the seventh, Kate Heithoff reached on a crucial one-out error, was bunted over to second and raced home on Brouse’s solid game-winning two-out hit.
 Brouse finished 2-for-3 with a walk at the plate and courtesy runner Madison Kjergaard scored twice in her place.
 “Julia has been in a little bit of a slump, so she needed (those three hits),” said HCHS head coach Toshia Kasperbauer. “She swung level today and got [two] hard hits on the ground, so that was nice to see. Emily struggled (early) and then came back with two hard hits in her last two at-bats.”
 Brouse, who took the game-one loss in relief, also got better in the circle as game two progressed.
 The Panthers (2-3, 2-1 H-10) scored a pair of unearned runs in the first when Jersey Foote delivered a two-out, two-RBI double. Halle Evans added an RBI single in the third to make it 3-1, but it would be the last hit Creston would get.
 Following a leadoff walk in the fourth, Brouse (3-2) retired 12 of the last 13 batters she faced, including three straight easy comebackers in the sixth and three straight K’s in the seventh. She allowed three hits and one earned run for the game, walking three and fanning 10.
 Coach Kasperbauer felt that Brouse was able to get a little more movement on her screwball and curveball in Tuesday’s second game, especially in the late innings.
 “I think in that first game some of those pitches were a little flat, so (Creston) got some harder hits off that, but she was able to keep them a little more off balance [in game two]. And when she can throw that changeup periodically for a strike, that keeps them off balance too, wondering what’s going to be coming.”
 Haylee Gillam pitched six and two-thirds innings for Creston and allowed six hits and two earned runs. She walked two and struck out none but was able to induce a lot of soft contact, much like game one pitcher Keely Coen.
 “We’ve got to hit better. We have to be disciplined,” Kasperbauer noted. “We can hit the ball... (but) we’ve got to be disciplined when we face those pitchers that don’t have a lot of speed. Unfortunately they kept us off balance today because we got out on that front foot and either popped it up or had a short little dribbler.”
Game one recap:
 Outside of Madison Schumacher’s game-tying, two-run homer in the third inning, the Cyclones did very little against Coen, who finished off her four-hitter by retiring 13 straight after the long ball. She walked none, hit one batter and struck out three.
 Creston scored three runs in the second inning off Cyclone starter Tianna Kasperbauer. Foote, batting ninth, delivered a two-run double and Gracie Hagle followed with an RBI single.
 After HCHS tied the score in the third, the Panthers took advantage of a leadoff walk and an error to plate one run off Brouse in the fifth, then got some insurance on Neveah Randall’s two-run homer in the seventh.
 Creston outhit the Cyclones 10-4, getting two hits each from Hagle and Foote and finishing with three doubles and a homer.
 In addition to Schumacher’s first home run of the season, HCHS got a double from Jordan Heese and singles by Heithoff and Kennedy Kjergaard.
 Kasperbauer allowed six hits and three runs in three innings of work while Brouse gave up four hits and three runs (two earned) in relief, walking one and striking out six.
Atlantic Tourney June 5:
 HCHS won another Hawkeye Ten game on Wednesday afternoon, holding off Lewis Central 6-4 as the Titans scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it close.
 The Cyclones played at Denison-Schleswig Thursday night and will take part in the Atlantic Trojan Tournament on Saturday, facing Carroll in a first round game at 11:00 a.m.

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