In what turned out to be a gem of a game between Marion County rivals Knoxville and Pella Christian, it was the Panthers softball team that scored an exhilarating 5-2 comeback win against the Lady Eagles on Friday night in Pella.
Pella Christian jumped out to a quick 2-0 advantage in the first inning, but the two teams went scoreless for the next five innings. Knoxville suddenly got hot in the final inning, as their number two through seven hitters all reached base safely on a combination of hits, walks and errors to score five runs and take the lead. Panther pitcher Jessica Stickel then retired the side in the bottom of the inning to close out the victory.
Knoxville Head Coach Steph Christner said the win was an important step in the right direction for her team.
“I think it gives the girls a lot of confidence. This is what we’ve been working for the whole year,” said Christner. “The defense looked good again tonight. We made a few mistakes, but we learned from them and they didn’t let them bother them tonight.”
“Offensively we’re getting where we need to be and we’re coming out and starting to hit the ball well. We just need to keep improving and keep getting better. I think this team could do a lot of good things if we keep improving.”
Kylee Bishop led Knoxville on offense, going 2-for-3 with a walk and scored the Panthers’ go-ahead run. Stickel overcame a rocky start to finish the game with five strikeouts and four walks, allowing Pella Christian just two hits.
Her counterpart, Paige Blom, struggled with deep pitch counts all night, throwing 153 pitches and allowing eight hits and five walks, while striking out eleven Knoxville batters. She did provide one of PC’s two hits, knocking a double off the center field wall in the first inning to score Morgan Blom from second base.
Pella Christian Head Coach Nate Van Wyk said the bitter loss served as a reminder of the effort it takes to be a great team.
“You need three parts of a game to win. You gotta pitch well, you gotta play defense and you gotta hit – and we didn’t have that tonight,” said Van Wyk.
“If you want to be a good team, you can have two out of three on any night and you’ll be a good team; [but] if you want to be a great team, you’ve got to bring all three of them every single night. We talk to our girls about that constantly – about bringing all three aspects of the game every single night when you show up. You don’t have the opportunity to take time off – you’ve got to find something in yourself to bring it every single night.”
The win comes at an important time for the Knoxville softball team, improving their record to 6-12 overall and 3-5 in the Little Hawkeye Conference; while Pella Christian slips to 5-3 in league play and is 10-5 overall.
Both squads are in action Saturday at the Oskaloosa Invitational.