DEWITT - An explosive first and sixth inning helped lift the No. 12 Central DeWitt softball team over Northeast 5-1 despite some hard-to-handle defense from the Rebels on Tuesday night.
For the Northeast girls, it was their third consecutive loss. However, it was their third consecutive loss to a ranked program. All but two of their losses this year have been handed to the Rebels by ranked teams, most of them Class 3A or highers.
"We have a lot of respect for their program, they have a lot of good young talent," Northeast head coach Travis Eversmeyer said. "This just shows us again that we can compete, we just have to get over the hump."
The Class 4A Sabers took on the smaller opponent in a non-conference match up on their own turf, and set the tone for the night right away. Two singles put two runners on right away, and then Mya Cavanaugh placed a looping ball just fair in short right field, just enough to score both runs.
A defensive error not long after allowed the Sabers to bring in another run and extend the lead to 3-0.
"It's always nice to get a lead, especially at home," Central DeWitt head coach Lee Swanson said. "It's important. We did the same thing last night [in Dyersville] and let a game get away from us and I think we learned from that."
The Rebels had a quick answer to cut the lead to 3-1. Junior Audrey Morris hit a big double to the left field corner and she was followed with a grounder from Valerie Spooner. Although Spooner was called out at first, it gave Morris enough time to plate the run.
Those would be the last runs scored for a while. After the Rebels scored in the top of the second, pitcher Alexis Ehlers and some solid Northeast defense held them scoreless for the next four offensive innings.
"You have to give them a lot of credit," Swanson said. "Their shortstop [Valerie Spooner] made some really good plays and kept them in some innings. We have to keep swinging and I think sometimes we don't."
The defense has been a key for Northeast all season long. Their speedy infield stops balls at all costs, throwing their bodies into the dirt at times.
"You have to be ready for the ball," Eversmeyer said. "She's [pitcher Alexis Ehlers] not walking a whole lot of people so they know they have to be ready for a ball to come at them. Situational, we're getting a lot better. They're continuing to work on defense."
The bottom of the sixth started with a big solo long ball from senior Mckenzie Rosenboom. It kept rolling from there, with both Hannah Palzkill and Kathryn Grau hitting singles to leave Sabers at both corners.
Northeast's Eversmeyer made his way to the mound to talk to Ehlers, and left her on. It was the third time he had talked to his starting pitcher in the game and let her continue her game in the circle.
"She worked extremely hard all off-season," Eversmeyer said. "She exudes confidence to me. She doesn't drop her head when things get hard, she rolls her sleeves up and works. I feel confident when she's on the mound."
They did replace Ehlers after the next out. Off relief pitching, Katie Fox wore a pitch to load the bases and then a walk scored the final run of the game.
The Sabers' pitching combo of Mya Cavanaugh (six innings pitched) and Keeley Jansen held the Rebels to just the one run. That's an effort coach Lee Swanson likes to see after a couple of tough losses last week.
"We pitched really well," Swanson said. "We're hard to score against when we play well."
The Rebels, who have played close with multiple ranked teams this year, are still looking to take down their first. They have a chance on Thursday, meeting local foe Camanche for a River Valley Conference doubleheader on the road.
"We just have to beat one of them once," Eversmeyer said. "Then I think it will snowball into multi-wins."
The Sabers (20-7) welcome seven-loss Mount Vernon to their home field for a tough WaMaC matchup. Mount Vernon is ranked No. 12 in Class 3A.