Huskies bark early, end Cyclones’ season 10-0
WINTERSET (July 13) -- For the Harlan Community softball team, another successful season has ended with another one-sided regional defeat.
On Tuesday night, it was an eight-run bottom of the first that dashed the Cyclones’ latest hopes for their first state tournament berth since 2010.
Winterset star shortstop Jena Young led off the first with a triple, capped the inning with a grand slam and added a two-run homer in the third as the top-ranked Lady Huskies beat the Cyclones 10-0 in a Class 4A, Region 2 final that lasted just five innings.
Winterset (34-7), last year’s 4A state champion, will return to Fort Dodge as the top seed next week and face Oskaloosa (22-14) in a state tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday (July 20) at 1:00 p.m.
HCHS, meanwhile, finished 26-12 overall and was ousted by the defending state champs for a second straight season. Last year, the Cyclones lost to Carlisle 12-0 in a three-inning regional final. In 2019, they lost a regional semifinal at Boone 12-0 after the Toreadors plated 11 runs in the fourth.
“I don’t care if you’re at the state tournament or if you’re in substate or where you’re at, that last game is always tough,” said HCHS head coach Toshia Kasperbauer. “It’s always tough on your girls, tough on your seniors.
“But they keep bringing us this way for tournaments. Carlisle last year - number one. Winterset this year - number one. We’ve just got to keep battling and take our season a game at a time and then just do what we can in postseason.”
Tuesday’s loss ended the careers of five Cyclone seniors that have played a vital role in the program’s recent run of three consecutive winning seasons. The list includes pitcher Emily Brouse, catcher Madison Schumacher and outfielders Julia Schechinger, Kennedy Kjergaard and Miranda Goetz.
Four of those five seniors have played at the varsity level for five years and also competed on travel ball teams coached by Kasperbauer as far back as 2014.
“Four out of the five I’ve had for seven years... I think that’s probably the toughest (part),” Kasperbauer said. “Sometimes they know me a little too well and I know them a little too well, but I think that’s also a good thing.”
Kasperbauer added that the team put together a “great week of practices” since wrapping up the regular season on Tuesday, July 6.
“The seniors stepped up, were leaders out there at practices, and we were really dug in and focused,” she said. “So I can’t say that we didn’t have good practices. We were ready to (play) today but it just didn’t turn out in our favor.
“Unfortunately for the seniors, this is not where they wanted to end their season. They wanted to end their season obviously in Fort Dodge, but there’s nothing we can do about that [now].”
The Cyclones were unable to put pressure on the favored Huskies early, going down 1-2-3 in the top of the first against Winterset ace Thea Banning (32-3). HCHS hit some balls hard on the night, but Banning allowed just three singles in five scoreless innings. She hit one batter, walked none and had five strikeouts.
The real blow to Harlan’s chances came in the bottom of the first when the Huskies scored eight runs on seven hits against HCHS pitchers Tianna Kasperbauer and Emily Brouse.
Brouse, who ended up throwing 145.67 innings on the year compared to 90.33 for Kasperbauer, was announced as the Cyclones’ starting pitcher. However, a quick positional change prior to the home half of the first saw Kasperbauer take the circle in an effort to catch the Huskies off guard.
“That was our plan prior to the game because we had heard that they were planning for Emily,” Coach Kasperbauer said. “So that’s what we wanted to do. The (girls) had kind of talked and they wanted us to start with Tianna on the mound - because she had a changeup and a drop - so I had them both warm up. We made that switch in the bottom of the first inning just so they didn’t have as much time to plan.”
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, Winterset adjusted very quickly on the fly. Young lined a changeup to the center field fence for a misplayed triple to lead things off, then Riley Kious and Ava Lowden hit soft singles to left. After cleanup batter Bridget Stover’s RBI single made it 2-0, Coach Kasperbauer brought in the harder-throwing Brouse to pitch, but the situation did not improve right away.
Lauren Carter greeted Brouse with a long fly ball to right that was good for a sacrifice fly, Bailey Acton singled and Natalie Drake was hit by a pitch. HCHS got a force play at home for the second out with the score still just 3-0, but an error let in another run and extended the inning for Young, who jumped all over Brouse’s first pitch and lined a grand slam over the right field fence.
Just like that, it was 8-0.
“They’re going to get hard hits. They’re a good-hitting team. I’m not going to take that away from them,” Coach Kasperbauer said. “It didn’t matter what pitcher that we were going to go with, I knew that they were going to hit the ball and I knew that we were going to have to come out and try to beat the ball around too.”
No breaks, no rally
Schumacher and Kjergaard both hit singles in the third inning for HCHS and Jordan Heese had the team’s only other hit in the fourth.
A few other balls were hit hard, but Winterset was always in the right place to make plays.
After Schechinger was hit-by-pitch to open the fourth, Brouse hit the tar out of a ball but was victimized by Young’s glove this time around. The Husky shortstop snared the wicked line drive with ease and threw to first in one motion to double off Schechinger, who had ventured toward second on contact.
Overall, Kasperbauer said she was pleased with how the Cyclones followed the game plan and swung the bat against a very good pitcher in Banning. Prior to the last two at-bats of the game, HCHS struck out just three times.
“The couple games that we saw, she threw a lot inside and other games she threw outside,” Kasperbauer said of Banning. “She likes to get you to chase up, which we did a little bit tonight but I thought the girls held off pretty good at the beginning and then they got a little antsy at the end.
“We really talked about just playing our game, trying to play an error-free ball game and hitting the ball hard... and I think we maybe had one error... (The girls) hit the ball hard. Each of them came up and swung the bat hard, and I’m proud of them for that.”
Too much Young
Tianna Kasperbauer (12-4) faced four batters and allowed four hits and three earned runs Tuesday night. Brouse surrendered eight hits and seven runs in four innings, but only two of the runs were earned. She hit one batter and struck out three.
Kious and Acton both finished 2-for-3 at the plate for Winterset, but Young had her fingerprints all over the 10-0 outcome with her bat and glove. The sophomore finished 3-for-3 with a triple, two home runs, six RBI and 11 total bases.
Young’s second home run of the night - her 11th of the year and the team’s 35th - also came on the first pitch of an at-bat against Brouse in the third inning. Neither first-pitch homer came off a fastball or riseball, however.
“She hits the ball, period,” Coach Kasperbauer said. “The first one she took out was a screwball; second one she took out was a curveball. So we went both sides of (the plate). (Her) triple was on a changeup, so I guess you give credit where credit is due.”
Kasperbauer was asked how much she considered giving Young an intentional free pass along the way.
“Not the (third) time, but the next time we were,” she said. “And we didn’t have that next time.”
Class 4A, Region 2 Softball Tournament
First Round Scores - Thursday, July 8
Creston 8, Glenwood 3 Denison-Schleswig 14, Lewis Central 0 (4)
Regional Semifinal Scores - Saturday, July 10; Monday, July 12
Harlan Community 4, Denison-Schleswig 3 Winterset 5, Creston 2
Regional Final - Tuesday, July 13
#1 Winterset 10, Harlan Community 0 (5)
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