Raiders fought through injuries, youth
The Collins-Maxwell-Baxter softball team fought through inexperience and injuries to make steady improvement throughout the 2013 season.
CMB only had three girls play the entire season due to health issues. The lack of consistency made it tough for the Raiders to compete for spot in the top half of the Heart of Iowa Conference.
The injuries and a lack of experience took its toll on CMB early as the team started off 0-7. But the Raiders recovered to play near-.500 ball down the stretch, finishing 11-21 overall and 7-11 in the HOIC after going 8-24 and 5-11 respectively a year ago.
“Overall, I thought the season was good,” CMB head coach Troy Houge said. “There were a number of young girls who got the opportunity to play and it was good to see the girls step up in tough situations. We were in most of our games and lost some heartbreakers, but also won some nice games.”
The Raiders suffered losses to Grandview Park Baptist, Roland-Story, Saydel, Greene County and Prairie City-Monroe and they were also swept in a doubleheader by Oskaloosa during their first seven games. They split with Lynnville-Sully and Melcher-Dallas on June 8, with a 6-4 win over Melcher-Dallas snapping their losing skid.
CMB followed up its win over Melcher-Dallas by crushing South Hamilton, 10-0, at Jewell on June 10 for its first HOIC victory. They Raiders then knocked off Van Meter by a 3-2 score June 11 in Collins.
The Raiders suffered losses to Colfax-Mingo and Grandview Park Baptist in their next two games. Then they split with West Marshall and Des Moines Christian on June 15 in State Center, picking up a 7-3 win over Des Moines Christian.
On June 17 the Raiders suffered a 7-2 loss at home against Saydel. But the next night saw CMB turn in its best performances – sweeping a doubleheader with a North Polk team rated 13th in 3A.
The Raiders knocked off the Comets by scores of 6-5 and 8-7 in Alleman.
CMB followed up its big sweep over North Polk with a 7-6 home win over Gilbert. The Raiders then dropped games to Ballard and Nevada before splitting its home tournament with Madrid and Northeast Hamilton.
The Raiders took down Northeast Hamilton by a 4-3 score and lost to Madrid by a 2-1 margin June 22 in Collins.
CMB nearly scored its second win over a rated 3A foe on June 24 after traveling to Jefferson and losing a 12-11 slugfest with Greene County. The Raiders came back to gain some revenge on Nevada with a 5-3 win June 25 at Collins, but they suffered setbacks in their next three games.
The regular season ended with CMB taking two of its final three games. The Raiders picked up a 12-4 road win over Gilbert and a 1-0 home victory versus South Hamilton on July 2 and 3 and they finished the regular season with a 9-2 loss at Roland-Story.
In the postseason CMB dropped its 3A regional opener at Madrid, 6-0, to finish the season.
“Sweeping North Polk at their place when they were ranked was a good day,” Houge said of the biggest season highlight for his team. “We also played well against Van Meter and Des Moines Christian. We had different girls step up in different games and that’s what made us a team. It was never one person who carried us.”
For the season CMB hit .270 with identical on-base and slugging averages of .329. The Raiders scored 124 runs and finished with 42 steals, 21 doubles, three triples and eight home runs.
In the field CMB allowed 206 runs and had a team fielding average of .923.
Taylor Ross, Megan Ritter, Mackenzie Schmitz and Cheyanne Warne were CMB’s most productive hitters as they all hit over .300.
Ross posted a .320 average with 17 runs and seven steals in her junior season. She also made 43 putouts and seven assists in the outfield.
Ritter stepped up to hit .319 with 19 runs, seven RBI, three steals and one triple as an eighth-grader. In the outfield Ritter made 22 putouts and only two errors.
Schmitz hit .318 with one triple, 12 runs, nine RBI and six steals. As the anchor of the CMB defense at shortstop, Schmitz made 49 assists, 36 putouts and only five errors on the season.
Warne was the top power hitter for CMB as she hit .310 with a .520 slugging average. The Raider pitcher belted seven doubles, one triple and four home runs and she finished with 10 runs and a team-high 17 RBI.
Catcher Abby Applegate just missed hitting .300 as she posted a .293 average with four doubles, 12 walks and 14 RBI. Applegate had a .969 fielding average and she also threw out eight base runners.
Junior first baseman Abbie Haupert missed the last few weeks of the season, but when she was on the field she was productive. Haupert hit .295 with two doubles and five RBI.
Freshman Payge Jurgens turned in a solid power year at the plate. Jurgens hit .207 and she smashed four home runs and two doubles in addition to scoring 18 runs and driving in 15.
Seniors Becky Williams and Cortney Ubben were also valuable contributors.
Williams hit .250 with three doubles and 13 RBI and Ubben sported a .261 average with 13 runs and nine RBI. Williams also made 15 putouts and 14 assists playing mainly in the outfield and Ubben tallied 47 assists and 58 putouts, seeing most of her time at third base.
Senior Brittany Peterson occupied second base for CMB and she made 35 assists and 31 putouts. Peterson also had a .265 OBA with a double and five runs at the plate.
Eighth-grader Mikayla Eslinger and sophomore Anna Peters also had double-digit at-bats for CMB. Eslinger tallied five runs and three RBI and Peters totaled two hits.
Warne and eighth-grader Heather Jessen handled the pitching for CMB. Together they had a 4.27 earned-run average with 119 strikeouts and 124 walks in 203 1/3 innings.
Warne did most of the work as she went 8-17 with 108 strikeouts, 107 walks and a 4.34 ERA in 163 innings. Jessen finished 3-4 with a 3.99 ERA, 17 walks and 11 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings.
It will be tough for Houge to replace the veteran contributions of Warne, Williams, Ubben and Petersen next season.
“Cheyanne made a big sacrifice by pitching the last two years; she didn’t even start pitching until her freshman year, but we needed her to pitch and she stepped up and did it,” Houge said. “Brittany was a good leader and solid at second, Cortney was a player who had to move around and play a variety of positions and she was also a great leader who spent a lot of time working with the younger girls. Becky was another player who moved around a lot, but did everything we asked and gave us everything.”
Next season Houge hopes to find a way to replace that leadership void and have a healthier run as the Raiders aim to improve their record.
“With the injuries we were short on pitching, so we need to work on getting healthy in that department,” Houge said. “If the girls understand there are no shortcuts and continue to work in the offseason, we have a chance to be a good team next year. There is a lot of talent on this team and I am excited to see what they can do.”