Trojan softball team outlasts HCHS 11-7 in nine

Atlantic produces five-run rally in sixth, later adds six-run ninth

 HARLAN (June 8) -- In seven out of nine innings Tuesday night, Atlantic mustered little to nothing against Harlan Community softball pitcher Emily Brouse.
 In the sixth and the ninth, however, the Trojans showed a big part of the reason why they’re ranked eighth in Class 3A.
 Aided by two Cyclone errors, Atlantic started getting better swings off Brouse in the top of the sixth and plated five runs on four hits to surge ahead 5-4.
 Following Jordan Heese’s game-tying home run for HCHS, the Trojans were silenced again in the seventh and eighth before erupting for six runs on six hits in the ninth. They held on for a wild 11-7 extra-innings road win and stayed unbeaten in the Hawkeye Ten, improving to 11-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play.
 The 14th-ranked (4A) Cyclones dropped to 9-4 overall and 4-2 in the H-10, good for third place.
 They scored three runs in the third to build a 4-0 lead vs. Atlantic ace Olivia Engler, but were retired in order four times over the last six frames.
 “We knew they were going to come out and hit the ball... and we knew we were going to have to put runs on the board to be able to win the ball game,” said HCHS head coach Toshia Kasperbauer.
 “We came out and we battled. The thing I thought we did a little bit of was soften up when we were four runs ahead, and we can’t (do that). “You put four runs on the board and we’ve got to turn around and do that every single inning... That’s where we’ve got to make sure we continue with that momentum instead of coming out hard one inning and then we break for three or four innings.”
 Although it was inconsistent, both teams put together some very good at-bats against two of the league’s most accomplished pitchers in Brouse and Engler.
 The Cyclones struck first, taking advantage of a leadoff walk to Brouse in the bottom of the second. With one out, Heese waited back on a changeup and hit a sinking liner that went off the glove of charging left fielder Ava Rush for an RBI triple.
 One inning later, Ella Plagman and Kate Heithoff opened the third with back-to-back singles and Julia Schechinger’s solid RBI single to left made it 2-0. After Brouse was walked intentionally to load the bases, Atlantic shortstop Caroline Pellett fielded a ground ball and threw home for a force out, but the catcher’s throw to first for an attempted double play got past the first baseman and Schechinger was able to score. Courtesy runner Madison Kjergaard scored on a wild pitch moments later to put the Cyclones up 4-0.
 Brouse entered the sixth with a two-hit shutout and had allowed only three base runners, but the Trojans were starting their third time through the lineup and soon seized momentum after the inning started with an error.
 Lauren Nicholas singled and Alyssa Derby’s double got Atlantic on the board. Following a hit batter and a strikeout, Pellett blooped an RBI single to center to make it 4-2.
 Brouse got Engler on a line out to center for the second out, but number eight batter Jada Jensen was able to come through with a two-strike, two-RBI single. Another Cyclone error let in Pellett to put the Trojans up 5-4.
 Engler was on a roll in the sixth, having retired 10 straight Cyclones, but with two outs Heese jumped all over a riseball and launched her second home run of the year over the batting cage beyond left field.
 HCHS had two chances for a walk-off win in the seventh and eighth but went down in order both times, setting the stage for Atlantic’s six-run ninth.
 With one out, seven consecutive Trojans reached safely, starting with a single by Madison Botos and a Nicholas RBI double that was barely fair down the left field line. Kennedy Goergen’s two-run single made it 8-5, Pellett followed with a run-scoring hit and Engler ripped a line-drive two-run homer to left that gave Atlantic an insurmountable 11-5 advantage.
 The Cyclones got doubles from Madison Schumacher and Kennedy Kjergaard during a two-run bottom of the ninth before Engler struck out the last two batters to give her 15 Ks on the night. She allowed eight hits, two walks and five earned runs.
 Although HCHS did turn at least a couple changeups into RBI hits, Coach Kasperbauer was disappointed in the plate discipline and 15 strikeouts against Engler.
 “You have to learn from your losses,” she said. “One thing we talked about is... (Engler) doesn’t throw real hard but she throws a lot of junk, so we have to be disciplined at the plate to stay off of that junk and we chased some of that tonight.”
 Brouse’s final line included 13 hits and seven earned runs allowed in eight and two-thirds innings. She walked two and struck out seven before Tianna Kasperbauer pitched in relief after the Engler home run.
 Brouse and Kasperbauer split the pitching duties evenly last year and again at the start of this season, but Brouse has taken on more of an “ace” role recently and has started six of the last seven games in the circle.
 Asked if she considered relieving Brouse earlier in the ninth, or even the sixth, Coach Kasperbauer said that she had confidence in Brouse’s ability to escape those jams.
 “I guess that’s a coach’s nightmare - when to say when,” she said. “You think about switching pitchers here and there, but... Emily is a senior and that’s the position she likes to be in and sometimes you want her to be able to work out of those jams and be able to go for it. That’s the position she wants and that’s the position I want to give her.”

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