By Kristi Nixon
ST. ANSGAR — The start of the Top of Iowa East Conference softball season wasn’t the greatest for the Saints.
Coach Lance Schutjer’s team faced the teeth of what has been the stronger teams in the conference, some expected, some a surprise in starting 1-3.
However, with a key 2-1 victory over a Mason City Newman team at home, the Saints have evened their league record at 4-4 and improved to 8-5 overall. And a lot of emotion from Mallory Juhl who came on in relief of her sister Josie, who earned the win in the circle while giving up four walks with no hits. She struck out five.
“We thought we could use a little change of pace,” Schutjer said, “and decided to bring her in. Give them someone else to look at. Like I told the girls, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe seeing someone different might get them off-balance a little bit.
“Yeah, she gave up a run, but she came in and gave us what we asked her to do. She gave them something different to look at, and it worked out right.”
A string of hits, including Emma Hicken, Kennedy Schwiesow and Abby Hemann in the third inning with a two-run single by Mallory Juhl led to the only two runs for the Saints to provide just enough to get the win.
Other than that, Newman pitcher Macy Keller had the Saints popping the ball up with five pop- or foul-outs.
“It seemed like we were popping things up in the infield. We weren’t sitting back on the ball, kind of too anxious,” Schutjer said. “Hats off to them, they did everything they needed to do to keep us off-balance. Fortunately, we got a few hits when we needed to and put them together; otherwise, their pitcher was doing everything she needed to in order to keep us off base.”
But the Saint defense did their part, particularly left fielder Katelyn Gerk, who caught four big outs, including two in order to end innings with the Lady Knights threatening.
Coach Schutjer said that if she didn’t make those catches, “It’s a different ball game.” Her biggest was with Newman threatening after scoring its run in the fifth.
“It was on point tonight,” Gerk said of the defense. “I caught what needed to be caught. For the most part, a little pressure, but there is always presure in the game. I need to be at my best to keep my spot. There’s always people coming up behind me.”
The full story and more photos appear in the June 15 print edition of the Enterprise Journal.