Hailey Louw and Sydney Mathis have as good an on-field relationship as any two players on the Roland-Story softball team.
The Norse battery work together often. When Mathis is pitching, Louw is catching.
Louw throws often, too, and the pitching tandem worked to plan in Roland-Story’s 4-3 victory over Colo-NESCO at the Roland Kiwanis Tournament on Saturday, June 17.
“Hailey did her duty. We’ve just got to execute behind her. When she’s on the mound, they’re going to hit the ball, but we’ve got to make routine plays,” Roland-Story coach Amber Doyle said.
Louw, who pitched and hit third for the Norse, put in four solid innings, giving up all three runs, in the circle for the Norse before moving to catcher as Mathis moved to pitcher to close out the game.
“I’ve felt pretty strong all year. I usually catch Sydney, so I try to take the strategy me and Sydney use when she’s pitching into my game and just generate a lot more ground balls and pop flies,” Louw said, noting Mathis is the strikeout pitcher.
When Louw catches, she calls the pitches for Mathis. When Louw moves to the circle to close out a game, she already knows what the opponent is struggling with and often works the same strategy she said.
And though they went in the opposite direction Saturday, when the change was made against the Royals, with Louw catching and Mathis moving to pitcher from the designated player spot, it was smooth sailing for the Norse.
Mathis gave up just two hits and struck out six over the final three innings.
The Royals got on the board first, with a three-run third inning that broke what was shaping up as a pitcher’s duel between Louw and Colo-NESCO’s Mackenzie Ruffcorn.
Colo-NESCO’s Claire Skinner and Mckenzie Niemeyer, hitting in the eighth and ninth spot, reached on a walk and a Norse error to lead off the top of the third.
Rylee Purvis hit an RBI single to score Skinner, and Niemeyer scored shortly after on an RBI single by Grace Stalzer.
Purvis scored on a sac fly by Chelsea Henze, but Stalzer was left on second — one of four Royals left in scoring position in the game — as Kassie Robinson grounded out to end the top of the inning.
The Norse wasted no time in responding, however, as they put up three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.
With the lightest of rains falling, the bottom of the Norse order — a lineup Doyle was experimenting with — got through against Ruffcorn. Cora Spainhower hit a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Jessica Hovick. Talyn Phillips then hit a single.
Successive batters at the top of the order, Susie Weaver and Juliann Clark, put Spainhower and Phillips over the plate.
The Norse scored the decisive run in the fourth as Weaver got her second RBI of the game, hitting into a fielder’s choice to score Lexi Haberlin and put the Norse up 4-3.
“We’re just trying a little bit different lineup than we’ve been trying this season, just trying to execute with runners on a little bit more,” Doyle said. “The girls at the bottom of the order are normally the girls at the top of the order, and I think they had a little bit of fire in them to come up and prove themselves. So good for them.
“We’re hoping they would come up and say, ‘Let’s be aggressive, let’s execute, let’s score runs where we need to.’ We’re still working and growing there.”
The Norse saw other areas for improvement as well.
While they were successful at plating runs when they needed to, Doyle hopes her team can do a better job of avoiding stranding runners on base.
“We know we want to get a little bit better about not leaving baserunners,” Doyle said. “If we’re going to set the table, we want to clear it a little bit better than we are right now.”