WASHINGTON — Staff at Washington High School made sure the Eddie Jones Memorial Tournament went off as planned despite a night of constant downpour.
Coaches and parents were on the field as early as 7:30 a.m. Saturday with shop vacuums and shovels so that softball could be played.
The starting times was pushed back and rain did wash out the final two games, but it was a herculean effort to get the field ready.
Highland defeated Washington 6-4 before losing to Class 3A’s No. 14-ranked West Burlington/Notre Dame 12-1. The WB/ND-Pleasantville game and Washington-Pleasantville game were canceled after heavy rain interrupted play.
“It’s always a tough decision to cancel the games,” WHS head coach Ben Obermann said. “Of course after about 2:30, it was blue skies the rest of the day and night, but unfortunately 3.5 inches of rain takes its toll on a softball diamond.”
The effort to have a playable field resulted in digging a hole in center field to drain the water.
“There is a ginormous hole out there,” Highland coach Carrie Weiland said. “They dug it up to drain the water and then they put the grass back down. They did a great job to get the field ready.”
Wieland also did a job to get her team ready to play against school with a much larger enrollment.
“Washington is a good team and we knew that coming in,” she said. “We made some changes earlier in the week and tried to get some things done so that we could compete. All we have to do is compete and we stand a chance against anyone.”
The Huskies definitely stood a chance after scoring six runs in the third inning. A double by Payton Brun was followed by an error, then Dani Laughlin and Mackinze Hora singled with Sarah Burton scoring. A run-scoring sacrifice by Abbi Stransky was followed by a Carson Mellinger RBI-single and a walk. Jenna Sands singled then Jessica Karus plated a run with a sacrifice fly. Burton’s single plated the sixth run of the inning in which 12 batters went to the plate.
“The first game we are incredible but the second game not so much,” Wieland said. “I think we were just off. I think in the whole picture of things, these games did not mean that much.”
Washington chipped its way back when Cameron Malicky singled, then scored on Kaitlyn Mitchell’s single in the bottom of the third. Two hit batters in the sixth inning scored on Cara Linnenkamp’s single. Kellie Dallmeyer singled in the seventh, advanced on Alexa Mitchell’s single and scored on Anna Venenga’s single but two runners were stranded to end the game.
Jessica Kraus relieved Highland starter Grace Batchellor with one out in the sixth. Batchellor gave up six hits, three earned runs, a walk, three hit batters and four strikeouts. Krauss gave up four hits and walked one.
“I did not pitch Grace long because it’s hot and we need to get the other girls some experience,” Wieland said. “Jessica came in and she was struggling.”
Highland scored its lone run in the second game when Stransky deposited a pitch over the left field fence.
“West Burlington is just a great pitching team iandn a good hitting team,” Wieland said.
Kraus and Grace Prybil each tossed two innings in the loss.
“Grace is just an eighth-grader and she did amazing,” Wieland said. “She did exactly what we needed her to do. We should’ve made a few more outs behind her. We have good eighth-graders shoring up shortstop and first base and when everybody is doing their job, we are going to be able to compete,” Wieland said. “We have a good group of kids.”
“Give Highland credit, they have speed and they put the ball in play,” Obermann said. “There were a lot of bloops that found a hole, but that’s the name of the game sometimes, and if you commit six errors like we did and give up a six-spot in one inning, it will be tough to come back, no matter who you’re playing.”
Washington was down 4-0 and 2-1 after the first innings of Thursday’s games at Burlington and lost 11-4 and 6-2.
“We have to get off to quicker starts in games,” Obermann said. “We have consistently put ourselves in a hole. That starts with me, and we will start doing some different things mentally to prepare to come out and start games faster. It’s much easier to play with a lead, and we will get there. We’re close. I am proud of the girls in how they competed and battled. We need to compete from the first pitch. We will get back to the mind-set of winning each inning and playing with more urgency.”
Burlington took advantage of “too many freebies,” Obermann said. “It still comes down to consistency, and once we find that consistency, we’re going to be a dangerous team. We’ve seen glimpses of what this team is capable of, and when we’re clicking, It’s about playing our best ball when July 16 rolls around. Our girls are doing and saying the right things, and eventually the process will start loving us back and we will be rewarded with wins.”
The Demons have a 3-8 record. The Demons won against New London Friday when Linnenkamp did not walk a batter and was consistently ahead in the count. “She is starting to get in a groove for us in the circle,” Obermann said. “In addition to Cara, we had seven different girls record a hit. Now, we just need to get the big hit a little more often, which will come.”
The Demons played six games last week and will play six in four days this week.
““I think it greatly benefits us to play a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Obermann said. “The best practice is live reps, and especially when you’ve struggled to start the season a little bit like we have, the more you play, the better you’re going to get, and the better chance we have to start playing strong, consistent softball. I think with all these game reps, it’s going to allow our girls to see a lot of different situations and types of pitchers. Our goal is to be playing our best softball when regional play starts. Everything is just leading up to that.”