MARSHALL - In four games this season, the Marshall softball team has been a slow starter. Coming into Tuesday's Southwest Conference home doubleheader with Jackson County Central, five of the Tigers' six runs had come in the seventh inning.
But in Game 1 on Tuesday, Marshall was able to buck the trend, as a throwing error by the Huskies' catcher led to a run from Maci Louwagie in the bottom of the first inning.
Up 1-0 two innings later, Maci Louwagie, Brooke Louwagie and Jessica Tubbs each crossed home plate, building up both the Tigers' lead and their confidence.
Photo by Joe Brown
Marshall’s Callie Graff, left, tosses a pitch to home plate as Tigers’ first baseman Maci Louwagie (3) and a Jackson County Central base runner watch during Tuesday’s Southwest Conference doubleheader at the Marshall Softball Complex. Graff threw both games, picking up her first varsity victory in Game 1.
"It was really important to start hitting before the sixth and seventh innings because by then, it's too late," said Maci Louwagie, who was 2-for-3 in Game 1. "Since we got hits to start off, we had more energy and I think everyone had higher spirits because of it. I think we can win if we start like that every game."
The fast start helped Marshall (1-3 SWC, 1-5 overall) to its first win of the season in a 5-3 decision in Game 1. JCC responded with a blistering start in Game 2 to win 14-1 in five innings, splitting the conference twin bill at the Marshall Softball Complex.
"We were excited to get some swings in (during Game 1) and get them on base and score some runs," said Tigers head coach Jack Houseman. "That's the fun part of the game and I was very happy to see that."
JCC001 000 2-3 8 3
Marshall103 100 X-5 7 2
JCC-Brooke Klontz. M-Callie Graff. WP-Graff. LP-Klontz. 2B: JCC-Klontz, Lydia Brandt 2. LOB: JCC-12; M-5.
Marshall000 01-1 4 3
JCC(13)01 0X-14 15 1
M-Callie Graff. JCC-Adriane Rentschler. WP-Rentschler. LP-Graff. 2B: JCC-Breanna Reetz, Rentschler. LOB: M-7; JCC-7.
Up 1-0 in the third, Maci Louwagie was hit by a pitch to open the bottom half. Brooke Louwagie followed up with a single through the infield which brought home Maci Louwagie after the Huskies' left fielder ran past the ball. With one out, Emily Mortier and Hannah Wenker hit back-to-back singles to drive home Brooke Louwagie and Tubbs.
"It always helps that they get the bats going because it makes the game seem easier," Houseman said. "They know they can do it when they're up there. They get some confidence and that's contagious."
In the circle, Tigers freshman Callie Graff was solid in her first varsity start, striking out four in a complete-game victory.
Up 5-1 in the top of the fifth, Marshall ran into trouble when a trio of walks loaded up the bases with two outs. But with the defense playing solid behind her, Graff coaxed Jenna Stade to a grounder back up the middle, ending the inning unharmed. The Huskies left 12 runners on base in Game 1.
"I was pleased with our defense, they stepped up in that first game," Houseman said. "... You're still looking at a pretty raw group of individuals that haven't played together a lot out there."
Looking to rally in the top of the seventh, JCC's Jasmine Erickson and Lydia Brandt hit back-to-back singles, and with two outs, Breanna Reetz hit a two-run single to cut the deficit to two. Needing one final out, Houseman met up with his infield to try and settle his team down to get its first win of the season.
"He told us to relax, breathe and get the final out," Maci Louwagie said. "One more pitch and we're done."
The Huskies' Brittany Woodke hit a grounder to third, where Brooke Louwagie rounded up the ball and got the force out for Marshall's first win. Maci Louwagie admitted afterwards, it was a huge relief off the Tigers' shoulders.
"We did have some defensive miscues and some base-running errors," Houseman said, "but overall, we hung in there and got the W, and that's what we needed."
In Game 2, the Huskies (1-3, 4-4) struck early and often, getting nine straight runners on base before Marshall got the first out. Getting through its batting order twice, JCC scored 13 runs on 10 hits.
"We had a couple walks and they had a couple loopers, a couple base hits and it just seemed to go on forever," Houseman said of the first inning.
In the top of the fifth, Marshall finally got on the scoreboard on a bases-loaded walk that brought home Graff. Huskies' pitcher Adriane Rentschler struck out three and held the Tigers to four hits.
On Thursday, Marshall heads back on the road for a conference doubleheader against Windom Area.