—by Todd Thorson

(tthorson@storycityherald.com)

The Norsemen girls had three impressive victories over Ballard, Gilbert and Saydel during last week’s softball action, and also dropped a heart-breaking contest to PCM that could have gone either way, as the Norsemen split their six contests for the week of June 24-29. On Saturday the Norsemen traveled to Kalona to take part in the Mid-Prairie tournament. They faced two #3 ranked teams in Durant (2A) and Mid-Prairie (3A), dropping both games via shut out, 8-0 and 1-0.

The 3-3 mark put the Norsemen’s overall record at 10-14 and their HOIAC standing at 6-8.

R-S 8, Ballard 2

The Norsemen hosted the Ballard Bombers at Roland last Tuesday night (June 25) and managed a solid 6-2 victory. It was one of their best overall team performances of the season. Bryce Holmgren and Mikenzi Monthei led the Norsemen’s nine hit attack with two hits each. Bryce also drove in three of the six R-S runs. Alexa Whipple came off the bench and had a triple and two RBIs as well. The Norse scored twice in each of the second, fourth and sixth innings.

Pitcher Erin Nuetzman once again showed her confidence on the mound as she went the distance, allowing just one earned run, six hits, struck out seven and walked four.

In the second, Brooke Staker singled and scored the Norsemen’s first run. Monthei reached on an error, stole second and also scored. The big blow came off the bat of Holmgren, whose two-run double to left-center brought in both Staker and Monthei.

In the fourth inning, Monthei singled and came in to score on Holmgren’s single. Bryce advanced on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

The Norsemen finished out their scoring in the sixth. Maddie Schmitt singled and Sydney Berends reached on an error. Whipple then delivered a triple to right that plated both Schmitt and Berends.

"This was such an exciting win for the girls," said Coach Amber Doyle, "because this was the first time they were able to see what they are capable of doing when they all play as a team with intensity and focus. We set a team goal this year to believe we are going to win every game. They all said before the game that they did believe and I think that was the final ingredient for them."

R-S 11, Gilbert 5 (11 innings)

The Norsemen scored six runs in the top of the 11th inning to break a 5-5 tie and send the visiting Norse home with a marathon 11-5 victory over rival Gilbert last Wednesday night (June 26) in Gilbert. Eleven batters came to the plate in the final inning, which was highlighted by four base hits by the Norse. Three errors by the Tigers and two walks also helped Roland-Story’s cause.

Sydney Berends had three hits, as the Norse banged out 14 hits. Brooke Staker, Bryce Holmgren, Mikenzi Monthei and Ena Moats each had two hits.

Gilbert scored first, taking a 3-0 lead in the third inning. But R-S tied it in the top of the fourth. Jesslyn Coghlan and Schyler Polaski had run-scoring hits in the fourth.

After Gilbert took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth, the Norse took their first lead at 5-4 with two runs in the fifth. Berends tripled and scored, and Moats reached on an error and eventually scored on Staker’s single up the middle.

Gilbert would tie it with a run in the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for an intense, cat-and-mouse and scoreless four innings. Both clubs pushed the contest into the wee hours of the evening before the Norse settled the score with their six-run explosion in the 11th.

"This game was a perfect example of the girls believing they can win any game," said Doyle. "Even after Gilbert scored first, and then went ahead again, the girls never looked shaken on defense and kept confident on offense. I was very impressed with them holding Gilbert scoreless for six innings. It can be difficult to win extra-inning games as the visiting team. It was such a good effort by so many girls at the plate."

Pitcher Erin Nuetzman started the game and went two frames before Holmgren took over for the remaining nine innings. Bryce allowed only four hits and one earned run through that entire time, striking out six. Claire Isenhart pitched all 11 innings for Gilbert.

"I’ve really enjoyed watching Erin and Bryce work together so well in their roles on the mound," praised Doyle. "They both understand how their different styles work for our team, and I feel lucky to have two such self-less athletes."

PCM 3, R-S 1

"This was a heart-breaking loss!" said a saddened Coach Amber Doyle following the Norse girls’ hard-fought 3-1 defeat to PCM last Thursday night (June 27) in Monroe. The Mustangs took a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and fifth. The Norsemen did manage to pull to within one at 2-1 with a run in the top of the sixth, but that would be it for the visiting team. PCM added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth and then held on for the victory.

The Norsemen attempted a comeback in the seventh when Sydney Berends and Ena Moats had back to back hits. Sydneys’ double led off the seventh, and Moats followed with a single, putting two runners on with no outs. But Berends was thrown out at third trying to tag up when the right fielder caught Maddie Schmitt’s fly ball and threw Sydney out for the double play. A ground out to the pitcher then ended the game rather abruptly, as a promising start to the inning went by the boards.

Cassie Shadlow, Jesslyn Coghlan, Maddie Schmitt, Mikenzi Monthei and Alexa Whipple also had hits for the Norse. The Norse collected seven hits total, while PCM posted 10 hits on the board. Paige Edwards drove in both PCM runs in the first and fifth with a single and a double, as she went 2 for 4. Shelby Palm and Kaitlyn Wilkie also had two hits for the Mustangs.

Pitcher Erin Nuetzman went six innings and allowed 10 hits and three earned runs, striking out seven and walking one.

"I think the girls were giving all they had after two hard fought games and a really late night the game before," continued Doyle. "They never gave up a big inning, but they struggled early to put runners on and keep consistent pressure on a team that traditionally plays well at home."

R-S 9, Saydel 5

A six run fifth helped pave the way for the Norse girls, as they held off a pesky Saydel team 9-5 Friday night (June 28) in Roland. After trailing 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Norse exploded for six, just as they did against Gilbert two night earlier. Saydel scored a single run in the sixth to trim the R-S lead to 7-5, but the Norsemen added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to ice the game. Saydel scored single runs in the second, third and sixth to add to their two-run fourth inning.

Roland-Story posted nien hits, while Saydel came u with seven safeties. Schyler Polaski, Cassie Shadlow and Sydney Berends each had two hits, with Sydney driving in four of the nine R-S runs. Schyler also had two RBIs, and Jesslyn Coghlan went 1 for 2 with two RBIs. Bryce Holmgren had a hit as well, and scored three times.

On the mound, Bryce went all seven innings, allowing seven hits, four earned runs, struck out one and walked one.

"I couldn’t be happier with how the girls bounced back from the previous night to play a hard fought game against Saydel," stated Coach Doyle. "I was really pleased with us scoring early and staying in the game even after they took a three-run lead over the course of the next three innings. It’s fun to watch the offense work when they put six runs together in one inning they way they did."

In the first, Holmgren singled and scored the Norsemen’s first run on a Berends sacrifice fly to right. The fifth saw Berends and Polaski each post two-run singles. Coghlan and Maddie Schmitt drove in the other two runs on a fielder’s choice and a ground out, respectively. And in the sixth, Holmgren was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on Coghlan’s base hit. Coghlan’s pinch runner Kelsey Polaski would soon score on Berends single up the middle.

"Our defensive goal this year is to prevent the big inning, and since they were able to accomplish this consistently, it kept us in the game and gave us time to score our big inning," added Doyle.

Mid-Prairie Tournament

Durant 8, R-S 0

The Norsemen elected to enter the Mid-Prairie Tournament to give them some vital opportunities to play a couple of teams they wouldn’t otherwise see and that were expected to do well in the post-season. Coach Amber Doyle’s goal was to show that the girls could play with anyone.

Roland-Story came out flat against Class 2A’s third ranked Durant outfit in their Mid-Prairie tourney opener, losing 8-0 at Kalona on Saturday (June 29). It had been awhile since the Norse had given up the big inning, but it happened in the fourth inning against a very good hitting Durant team. Durant scored five runs to open up a 6-0 lead. They added two more in the sixth, all the while shutting down the Norsemen on three hits.

"I thought the girls still stayed in the game, though," commented Doyle. "We had strong at bats, but we were unable to capitalize on our opportunities."

The lone hits for the Norse came off the bats of Maddie Schmitt, Ena Moats and Bryce Holmgren. The Norsemen were only able to reach second base three times, and they were retired in order in each of the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings. Durant pounded out 10 hits off starter Erin Nuetzman and reliever Holmgren.

Mid-Prairie 1, R-S 0

The third ranked team in Class 3A had all they could handle with the strong and determined Norsemen girls, as the Norse stepped up in game two Saturday in Kalona following a disappointing turn in their first outing of the day. The result was a finely played defensive gem won by Mid-Prairie 1-0. Coach Doyle still managed to find a positive light despite the loss: "We played some stellar defense and worked hard to put runners on base," she said.

But the Golden Hawks played tough defense too, turning two line drive hits by the Norse into double plays to get them out of innings. Mid-Prairie took away numerous base hits by the Norsemen as well by virtue of their strong defensive skills. "We just needed one hit to go a little left or a little right," added Doyle.

Mid-Prairie scored their lone run in the second inning on a double, an error and a wild pitch. Other than that, pitcher Erin Nuetzman went five strong innings, allowing just three hits, no earned runs, struck out three and walked no one. Bryce Holmgren pitched the final frame, allowing one hit and no runs.

The Norse finished with four hits, while Mid-Prairie had only three safeties. Jesslyn Coghlan, Sydney Berends, Schyler Polaski and Katie Kasper had the hits for the Norsemen.

The best scoring chance for the R-S girls came in the fifth when Polaski and Kasper had back-to-back singles with one out. Unfortunately a strikeout and a fly out ended the threat. The Norse put two on in the first inning with two outs and could not score.

"What impressed me most about the weekend was that the girls used game one as a learning experience and brought the intensity and play I’ve come to expect of them to the (contest with the) third ranked team in 3A," concluded Coach Doyle. "We’ve built a lot of confidence and had some good game experiences this week that I hope to see us use going into our last week of regular season play."