With 10 freshman, just two seniors and a new head coach a team is bound to have early struggles in any sport.
That is exactly what the Abilene Cowgirl softball team has, and it is exactly what they did as they lost their first five games to begin the 2014 season under new head coach LouAna Koochel.
But those 10 freshman and that new head coach have responded from the early sluggish start to the season with three straight victories, the last two of the 3-game winning streak came Monday afternoon when the Cowgirls swept a North Central Kansas League doubleheader from the Concordia Lady Panthers.
Keying the doubleheader sweep for the Cowgirls was their pitching as Abilene received a 4-0 shut out victory from Mallory Olberding in the opener and sealed the sweep with a 2-0 shut out victory by Jenna Klein in the nightcap.
“We were a very young team,” Abilene coach LouAna Koochel said of the early struggles to the season. “Our pitchers are doing a great job of keeping the ball in the zone and giving our defenders an opportunity to make plays and they are doing it. That is all we can ask.”
Abilene got the offense started in the second inning of the first game when the Cowgirls opened with back-to-back doubles from Kylie Geske and Allie Beswick. Geske scored on Beswick’s double, but Beswick was unable to score, leaving Abilene with a 1-0 lead.
Concordia got two runners on in the third, but Olberding recorded her third strike out of the game to escape the inning without a Lady Panther crossing the plate.
Abilene added another single run in the bottom of the fourth when Shelby Mascarento lined a triple and later scored on an RBI single by Jame Friederich.
The Cowgirls gave Olberding two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth when Friederich and Sydney Hocker came through with RBI singles, giving Abilene a 4-0 lead.
Olberding showed, however, she didn’t need any insurance and she worked her way out of a jam that had Concordia get runners to second and third with nobody out. But Olberding was able to get a batter to pop out and her sixth strikeout of the game to finish off the shutout victory.
“My girls just came out and played really, really good defense,” Koochel said. “That was really good to see because we started the season, our first doubleheader and had 17 errors. Tonight we only had three in two games.”
The offenses for both teams went cold in the nightcap as the two teams combined for just six hits in the second game of the doubleheader after combining for 11 hits in the opener.
The Cowgirls had five of those six hits in the second game and took advantage of two Concordia errors to seal up the doubleheader sweep.
Abilene broke the scoreless tie in the second game when it plated both of its runs in the bottom of the fourth when Klein roped a 1-out triple and scored on a wild pitch. Brie Murray followed the wild pitch with a single and came around to score when Geske grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the Lady Panthers threw the ball away trying to get Murray out at second, which allowed Murray to come all the way in and score for the 2-0 lead.
In the nightcap Klein did not need any more insurance on the mound as she shut down Concordia over the final three innings allowing just one hit.
“The girls feel comfortable in their shoes,” Koochel said. “They feel like they have a place where they are supposed to be and we are making the outs.
“Our pitchers, total, walked two batters and that was in one inning so they did awesome. That is exactly what we ask them to do.”