—by Todd Thorson

(thorson@storycityherald.com)

The Roland-Story girls appear to playing some of their best softball the last four or five games, and were riding a four-game winning streak as they opened 3A Regional play last night (Tuesday, weather permitting) against North Polk in Alleman. Four conference wins also brought a losing 6-8 record in the HOIAC up to a fine 10-8 mark. In addition they reached the .500 overall mark of 14-14; having not been at the break-even point since mid-June.

In the highly competitive conference race, North Polk, PCM and Greene County all finished with identical 13-5 records to lead the HOIAC. Saydel and Colfax-Mingo were next at 11-7, followed by Roland-Story (10-8), CMB (7-11), South Hamilton (5-13), Gilbert (5-13) and Nevada (2-16).

The Norse have outscored their opponents 155-102 thus far this season, and held a 105-66 advantage in runs scored over their conference opponents. Of their eight conference defeats, the Norse were only out-scored by a total of 21 points; a differential of just 2.62 runs per game. In other words, the Norsemen girls were competitive in every single one of their eight HOIAC losses.

Along the way, the Norse defeated co-champion PCM, as well as runner-up Saydel and Colfax-Mingo. One of the more impressive wins was a 6-2 win over a ranked and very good Ballard team a couple of weeks ago.

North Polk has proved to be a tough task for the Norsemen this season, as they defeated R-S twice by scores of 5-1 and 4-1. But maybe the third time was a charm for the Norse girls. Either way, the Norsemen have had a fine season, and are well on their way to more successes on the diamond in the seasons to come.

The winner of the North Polk/ Roland-Story game last night will face the winner of the Nevada/PCM contest on Friday night at Alleman beginning at 7 p.m.

R-S 5, South Hamilton 1

With the young Roland Youth Sports girls looking on, the Norsemen delivered a 5-1 victory over :South Hamilton in Roland on Monday (July 1). The future stars of Roland-Story softball enjoyed their special recognition night, with the J.V. and varsity girls even serving up root beer floats for them to enjoy.

"It was exciting for the girls to play so well with the Roland Youth Sports girls looking on," said Coach Amber Doyle.

Bryce Holmgren went 3 for 4 at the plate, including a double and a run scored. Ena Moats was 2 for 3, with a run scored. Maddie Schmitt and Schyler Polaski each had RBI singles. And Cassie Shadlow had a hit, a run scored, a stolen base and a sacrifice.

Right off the bat, Schyler Polaski made a great diving play in left field in the first inning that set the defensive tone for the game. "It allowed us to be comfortable early on offense, and scoring early was a hug key to our success in this game," said a pleased Coach Doyle. "We just played an all-around solid game."

Erin Nuetzman settled in nicely on the mound, showing confidence in both her pitching and her defense behind her. She went all seven innings, allowing seven hits, one run, struck out two and walked two.

The Norse scored three in the first inning. Holmgren led off with a double, and went to third on Shadlow’s single. After Cassie stole second, Jesslyn Coghlan’s ground out plated Bryce. Schmitt soon drove in Shadlow for the second run. And following a single by Moats, Maddie came in to score on Polaski’s single to left.

Single runs came across in the fifth and sixth, as the Norse assumed a 5-0 advantage. South Hamilton scored their only run in the top of the seventh on a couple of singles and a double. The R-S victory avenged an earlier defeat to South Hamilton back in mid-June.

R-S 5, Colfax-Mingo 2

With Colfax-Mingo playing some of their best ball as of late, the Norsemen traveled to Colfax for their final conference road game of the season. They came home with an impressive 5-2 win on Tuesday night (July 2). Bryce Holmgren was outstanding, going 5 for 5 and scoring three of the five Norse runs. Erin Nuetzman had another solid game, allowing no earned runs, just four hits, struck out three and walked two in her seven innings of work.

"It’s a testament to how the girls are playing with focus," said Doyle, "but also having fun when they go to Colfax-Mingo and win a big conference game against a team that played well all week. We recovered nicely behind Erin (Nuetzman) after committing errors that allowed them to score. I was happy with our effort for the whole game."

C-M scored first with a single run in the second to take a 1-0 lead. The Norse tied it in the third when Holmgren singled and eventually scored when Ena Moats was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. R-S went up 2-1 in the fourth when Holmgren doubled and scored on Jesslyn Coghlan’s single to right. But C-M tied it up at 2-2 with a run of their own in the bottom of the fourth.

After being retired in order in the fifth, the Norse girls put three on the board in the sixth. The big blow being Maddie Schmitt’s two-run single to right-center, which brought in Holmgren and Cassie Shadlow. Colfax-Mingo was retired in order in each of the sixth and seventh innings, as the Norse prevailed on the road.

R-S 9, Nevada 7

The Roland-Story girls returned the favor by hosting their own version of the Coaches vs. Cancer Awareness promotion on Wednesday night (July 3), facing off against Nevada in Roland. The result was a 9-7 victory for the Norsemen. The Cubs had hosted a Cancer Awareness Night a few weeks ago against the Norsemen, with resounding success as well.

"I was so excited to raise more money and awareness for Coaches vs. Cancer after having to reschedule games," stated Coach Doyle. "It was another special night with each player playing in honor of or in memory of someone who has battled cancer. I think this was part of what led to a hard fought game between both teams."

After Nevada took a 3-1 lead in the first inning, the Norse tied it at 3-3 with two runs in the third. A five-spot in the fifth by the Norsemen broke the tie and put the home team in front 8-3. The Cubs would not fold, however, as they scored three times in the sixth to cut the lead to 8-6. The Norse posted an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, which proved important, as things got a little dicey in the seventh. Nevada scored a run to cut the lead to 9-7, and had a runner on third with one out and the tying run at the plate. But two strikeouts by pitcher Erin Nuetzman ended the game in favor of the Norsemen.

Nuetzman went seven innings, allowed seven hits, just two earned runs, struck out seven and walked no one. Sydney Berends had a big night, going 4 for 4, including a double and four RBIs. Schyler Polaski was 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Bryce Holmgren was 2 for 4 with a double as well, and also drove in two. Cassie Shadlow walked three times and scored three runs.

R-S 9, CMB 2

On Senior Night Friday night in Roland, the Norse girls ended their regular season on a high note, downing CMB 9-2 to reach .500 for the season and finish 10-8 in the tough HOIAC race. The Norsemen’s three seniors – Maddie Schmitt, Ena Moats and Katie Kasper – were honored, along with their parents, prior to the contest. A five-run second and a three-run sixth spelled doom for the Raiders.

Sydney Berends had another strong night at the plate, going 4 for 4, including a double and four RBIs. Alexa Whipple went 3 for 4, as she continues to be a consistent second half contributor to the R-S offense. She also had three RBIs and scored two runs. Schyler Polaski, Bryce Holmgren and Cassie Shadlow each had hits as well.

Erin Nuetzman went the distance on the mound, allowing two earned runs, eight hits, struck out four and walked one.

Schyler, Alexa and Maddie Schmitt each drove in runs in the second. Whipple also drove in two more with a two-run single in the sixth. Kelsey Polaski also drove in a run with a single when she pinch hit in the fifth. Brooke Staker had an RBI single as well in the three-run sixth. CMB scored their two runs in the sixth on four consecutive hits with two outs.

"I couldn’t be happier with the way the girls ended their regular season’s final week," commented Doyle. "There were a lot of positive things that happened to build on as we head into the post-season. This was a strong team win to end with and to honor the seniors. Although our regular season finished at .500, we played against, and stayed in games, with a lot of ranked teams this year, and I’m proud of the girls’ progress."