The mind can race on any hitter when they stand at the plate looking for that clutch hit.
That isn’t the case for North Mahaska junior Carissa McBirnie. For McBirnie, the less that goes through her mind, the better.
“I not really thinking when I’m up there hitting,” McBirnie said. “When I think at the plate, it kind of throws me off. If I don’t think, it kinds of works for me.”
McBirnie didn’t have many problems on her mind Saturday on day two of the 38th Ottumwa Softball Classic. Four hits, two RBI and a four-inning scoreless start in the pitching circle helped ease any worries for McBirnie or her North Mahaska teammates, who celebrated a sweep of two games at Huston Field Saturday with a 6-0 shutout of Cardinal and a late 3-1 over Keokuk in a matchup of Class 2A and 4A’s 11th-ranked squads.
“We’ve stressing throughout this week that this is our week to prepare for the postseason,” North Mahaska head coach Mike Ryan said. “We did a great job defensively. We did the things we had to do and we did them well.”
McBirnie talked about her solid overall day at the plate, which included sparking the first of two three-run innings with an RBI single against Cardinal. While she tries not thinking too much, McBirnie does have her own motivational reminder to help her be successful.
“If I can get a hit, especially if I’m leading off an inning, that usually brings everybody up,” McBirnie said. “It kind of becomes something where everyone else feels like they can do it too.”
While McBirnie contributed with her bat in key moments in Saturday’s opener, Cardinal could do little to respond at the plate for a second straight game in Ottumwa. Hayley LaRue and Nicole Brand combined to shutout Cardinal on two hits as the Comets followed a no-hit effort Friday against Clear Creek-Amana with just four batters reaching base against the Warhawks.
“You’re not going to win a lot of games with just two hits, but we just have to get the bat back on the ball this week,” Cardinal head coach Jerald Harter said after his team finished an 0-3 stay at the Ottumwa Classic. The Comets (20-15) wrap up their regular season against Southeast Iowa Superconference south foe Central Lee tonight before hosting Pekin in a Class 2A regional opener Tuesday.
The Warhawks’ second win of the Classic was much tougher to get. Facing Class 4A state-tourney hopeful Keokuk, McBirnie looked shaky at times in the pitching circle including a three-walk first inning that loaded the bases.
McBirnie walked six batters over four innings, but forced Keokuk into groundouts to end innings twice with the bases loaded and once with two runners in scoring position. The junior turned the game over to Brand, the Warhawks’ ace, in the fifth with North Mahaska up 1-0.
“It’s not very often you can give up six walks and not give up a run,” Ryan said. “I didn’t know how long we were going to be able to dodge those bullets, but (Clarissa) was able to make the pitches when she needed to make them and that gave us the opportunity to get Nicole in there to wrap it up. It worked out just as planned.”
“When I get into a full count, it kind of makes me nervous, so I try to remind myself to be patient and do what I need to,” McBirnie added. “That was a case of my teammates helping me out.”
Keokuk rallied back for a run with a two-out RBI double by Alyson Hughes, leading Purple Chief coach Merle Jones to call on his ace, Taylor Lemon. The Warhawks responded by putting the first three batters of the sixth on before McBirnie’s fourth hit brought home the decisive runs of the contest.
North Mahaska (24-5) is looking to cap what has been a special year for girls’ athletics with a state softball run. This past winter, the Warhawk girls won their first ever state basketball title as the only perfect basketball team in the state.
“We tried to build on that, but I think earlier in the season people were kind of satisfied after our incredible basketball season. I think the girls have really started to get that hunger back and have come together to make another run at another state title.”
“Everybody’s been sticking together a lot more this year. We’re kind of more like a family then a team right now,” McBirnie added.
No. 11 Keokuk (22-13) bounced to grab their own late win later on Saturday, scoring six runs off relief pitcher Makenna Adler to beat Albia, 8-2. Hughes had another big hit, breaking a 2-2 tie with a key two-out RBI single to spoil a solid comeback after the Lady Dees scored two game-tying runs in the third inning.
But as they have all season, Albia bounced back and finished their two-day stay at the Classic with an even 2-2 record. Lexi Van Polen tossed a five-hit shutout as the Lady Dees blanked Fairfield, 5-0, clinching a winning season for an Albia team that lost their first six games after earning the No. 14 preseason ranking in the new-look Class 3A.
“We’re 18-8 in our last 26 games,” Lady Dees head coach Mitch Chance said. “From the poor start we had to having such a young team, I don’t know if I could ask for much more from a team to finish like that.”
“It’s been a fun season for these girls. They keep getting better with every game and I think we’re playing our best softball of the season right now. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Senior Tara Selvy wrapped up her final day of regular season play on the high school level with four hits on consecutive 2-3 efforts. After scoring a run against the Purple Chiefs, Selvy drove in a run and scored twice in Albia’s regular-season closing win over the Trojans.
“This is my senior year and my last year and I was excited to finish it with a winning record,” Selvy said. “It was all about getting the team together and getting motivated to play for the rest of the season.”
The Lady Dees (18-16) open Class 3A regional play at South Central Conference champion No. 11 (3A) Clarke on Tuesday.
“We know we can do it. We’ve played them tough this season. We have a lot of confidence going in,” Selvy said of her team’s postseason chances.
For Fairfield, it was a frustrating day of offense as the Trojans lost twice and didn’t plate a run in 13 innings. Fairfield entered the final two games of the Ottumwa Classic after pulling off a Southeast Conference split with Keokuk on Thursday, giving the Trojans (19-18) a chance to win the outright conference crown with a sweep at Mount Pleasant on Monday.
“We were really disappointed with how we performed offensively (against Albia),” Trojans’ head coach Bob Bradfield said. “We just didn’t seem to have a lot of life coming off that big win against Keokuk Thursday.”
“We may have been looking ahead to Monday a little. That’s not a good excuse, but it’s the only one I can come up with. We’ll have to get refocused to win the conference title (tonight).”
The mind can race on any hitter when they stand at the plate looking for that clutch hit.
Tri-County edges Lynnville-Sully late
Jake Brumbaugh was strong at the plate and on the hill in carrying Tri-County to a 3-2 victory over Lynnville-Sully on Friday.
Pekin powers past Lone Tree
The Pekin softball team needed just five hits, but took advantage of five Lone Tree errors to put 11 runs on the board on Friday.
- Ottumwa Red junior varsity sweeps Fairfield, white squad splits games FAIRFIELD --The Ottumwa red junior varsity team swept Fairfield in a doubleheader Thursday, squeaking by the Trojans 2-1 in the first game and crushing the Fairfield 16-8 in the nightcap. Kirsten Mincks gave up one run on four hits while striking out
- Unbeaten Twin Cedars takes first at tournament MURRAY -- The Twin Cedars baseball team picked up a pair of convincing victories Thursday in a tournament at Murray. The Sabers crushed Mt. Ayr. 15-3 in five innings in their first game, and they trounced Murray 11-1 in six innings in the tournament
- McDanel, Moravia shuts down Seymour MORAVIA - Stepping in for an ace pitcher with the ability to play at the Division I level, freshman Autumn McDanel stepped right up for the Moravia softball team in their season opener against Bluegrass rival Seymour on Tuesday. Taking over for curre
- Elder stays in park for second slam in Comets win DANVILLE - Two nights and two games into the season, Brennon Elder has had the two biggest hits of the season for the Cardinal baseball team. After drilling a grand slam homer out of Cardinal High School's baseball diamond in their season-opening win
- New-look Pioneers prepare to continue state tennis traditions FAIRFIELD - Names change. Expectations do not for the Fairfield Maharishi boys tennis program. So even in a season that began with the program starting with as big a change as it has gone through in some time, the end result is still the same as it's
Centerville linksters head to state competition
CENTERVILLE -- The Centerville boys golf team made history when it became the first team from the program to qualify for state since 1977. The Big Reds will try to parlay that momentous feat into a successful showing at the Class 3A State Tournament
- On Tap Friday Boys Tennis Class 1A State Singles and Doubles Tournament Fairfield and MSAE at Waterloo, 9 a.m. Boys Golf Class 3A State Tournament Centerville at Ames, 10 a.m. Prep Softball Ottumwa at Mount Pleasant (DH), 6 p.m. Davis County at Moravia (DH), 5:30
Blue Demons big rally stuns Van Buren in eight
To say Gabe Gravert hadn't really gotten into the swing of the baseball season was an understatement.
- More Sports Headlines
- Tri-County edges Lynnville-Sully late