FOREST CITY, Iowa – If the clutch hits just won’t fall, find another way to win.
That’s exactly what the Waldorf softball team did Wednesday, claiming a pair of walk-off victories by putting the pressure on Viterbo and taking advantage of miscues for a 1-0 win in eight innings, then a 3-2 win in a North Star Athletic Association doubleheader.
The Warriors needed to find a way to win without big offensive explosions as they entered the day scoring just six runs over the last six games, a streak that included a 3-1, extra-inning loss in nonconference play Tuesday to visiting Dordt.
“We talked about that (Tuesday) night after the game, we need to re-find our heart and re-evaluate where we are at with things,” Waldorf head coach Lexy Determan said. “I was really impressed with the way we showed up today and really made the change overnight.”
While the change didn’t lead to a run-scoring eruption, it did lead to a refuse-to-lose attitude that paid off with stellar pitching and defense, and some timely plays offensively with the game on the line.
In the opener, Karlee Leyvas (6-13) struck out nine V-Hawk hitters in eight innings in the circle and allowed just three base hits, backed up by an error-free defensive effort.
That kept Viterbo off the scoreboard, but V-Hawk pitcher Brooklyn Ottelien was equally outstanding in the circle, blanking the Warriors (14-26 overall, 11-13 NSAA) with a five-hitter through 7 1-3 innings.
That fifth hit proved to be the difference, though, as Warrior catcher Bree Hamblin singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning.
While Waldorf’s catcher was retired on a fielder’s choice, the hosts still had a runner aboard in Erin Curtin, who made the game-winning play with her speed on the basepath, stealing second then hustling all the way home when the throw bounced to the center-field wall.
“It was really nice to come back and win that extra-inning game after we lost that one (Tuesday),” Determan said, “so that makes it a lot more fun.”
While the walk-off win did little to spark Waldorf’s offense, it did re-invigorate the Warriors resolve, which shone through late in the nightcap.
Another pitcher’s duel, this time between Jessica Whittaker and Caitlyn Kozik, the V-Hawks (13-27, 8-15) broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth inning when Katelin Gilbertson doubled home the first run of the contest.
The resilient Warriors responded in their half of the inning as Taylor Navratil doubled and scored on a Peyton Arenson RBI single to left-center, Waldorf’s lone RBI of the day.
But the Warriors would score more, answering a solo run by the V-Hawks on a Sonya McCormick RBI sacrifice foul-out, with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for another walk-off win.
Kodi Hillman and Curtin sandwiched a single each around an error on a KD Hoyer sacrifice bunt, loading the bases for Navratil, who grounded to third. Instead of being a potential inning-ending ground ball, the Warriors pressure on the Viterbo defense led to a bobble that scored Hillman from third to tie the game.
Still, with the bases loaded, Brynlee Gibbs stepped to the plate and provided the game-winner, another grounder to third that this time ended in a dropped throw, which allowed Hoyer to score the winner.
Navratil led the Warrior offense on the day, going 3-for-6, while Rachel Setting (3-4) earned the second-game victory in relief of Whittaker in the circle.
The Warriors now take their refuse-to-lose attitude on the road to wrap up the regular season, playing doubleheaders at Bellevue on Saturday and Sunday.
Story by: Mike Stetson