BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – They say it’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season, but the Keokuk Chiefs knocked off FMHS five teams this year, the most recent a 7-2 season ender in Keokuk Thursday night.
The Hounds got solid defense behind senior Lexi Schmidt, but couldn’t string together enough offense to advance in regional play. The Chiefs move on to Fairfield on Saturday with a matchup against Fairfield.
Keokuk took advantage of three hit batters, all of whom scored, and four walks, two of which led to runs, and some timely hitting to build the spread against the Hounds.
Schmidt walked Michaela Davis to start the game and then plunked Makenzie Pezley to put two runners on. Jalyn Wood then slapped a single to left to score the speedy Davis from second. Schmidt then got Jakala Hall to hit into a ground out a second before hitting Aryn Kindig in the foot to put runners at first and second again with one out. Abby Arrowood hit into a fielder’s choice at third forcing Wood and Schmidt got Haley Broadwell to fly out to Kamryn Bailey in left to end the threat.
The Hounds couldn’t get anything going in the bottom of the first. Chayse Lowney lined out to right and Olivia Williams popped out to third. Schmidt sat on a change up and ripped it to center for a single, but Bailey popped out to third for the third out.
Schmidt settled down in the second inning and put the Chiefs down in order.
“You come into a game like this and it could be it,” said head Coach Stan Schmidt. “She’s a senior and it was emotional for her, but she settled in and that’s what you expect from a leader. She’s been a leader for us all year and she settled in and did a nice job.”
The Hounds also went 1-2-3 in the second with Sadie Smithburg ripping a line drive back to Pezley on the mound on a bang-bang play. Jada Lamm hit into a ground out to short and Vanessa Golowach fanned to end the inning.
The Chiefs put up another run in the top of the third when Wood reached with one out on a close play on a grounder to Lowney at short. The throw to get her was in the dirt and got passed Lamm. After a pop out to second by the next hitter, Kindig hit a grounder up the middle and scored Wood who had swiped second base. Arrowood grounded back to Schmidt at the mound for the third out.
Pezley got FMHS down in order again in the bottom of the inning and the Chiefs slapped another run on in the top half of the fourth when Shelby Haige walked with two outs and Davis smacked a triple into right between Golowach and Farmer that went to the fence. Pezley grounded out on a hot shot to second fielded cleanly by Kylie Cashman.
The Hounds got on the board in the bottom half, after Williams grounded out to third, Schmidt hit another single to center. Teryn Parson came in to courtesy run and advanced to second on a change up that skipped past the catcher. Bailey flew out to shallow right, but Smithburg worked a walk and Lamm hit a double that bounced once and hit the fence in deep left center scoring Parsons. Golowach flied out to left to end the threat, stranding two runners.
Schmidt set the Chiefs down in the fifth without any damage and the Hounds cut the lead to two in the bottom half when Lowney got struck by a pitch with two outs and came around to score on Williams’ double to left center. Schmidt took a walk to put two on for Bailey, but a deep fly to left ended the inning with Keokuk up 4-2.
The Chiefs got the two runs back in the top half of the sixth when Broadwell was struck by a pitch and stole second. Schmidt got the next hitter to fly out to center and struck out the third batter, but Davis, again, came through with a single to center scoring Broadwell followed by another single to right by Pezley plating Davis for a 6-2 lead.
Fort Madison went down in order again in the sixth and the Chiefs put up another run in the top of the seventh on a RBI single by Broadwell.
Schmidt gave Pezley a different look in the bottom of the seventh and brought in Dalyn Wondra and Teryn Parsons to hit, but both struck out and Lowney popped out to short to end the game.
“This was probably the best we’ve played defensively in quite a while,” Schmidt said after the game.
“But you have to give (Keokuk) credit, they came up with the hits when they needed them all game. We just didn’t do enough of that.”
Three seniors will be leaving the team including Schmidt, Lowney, and Emily Mitchell, and student manager Nick St. Clair. Schmidt said St. Clair has been a blessing to the team and wants to pursue a career in coaching.
“He’s smart and dedicated and he beats me to the field a lot and that’s hard to do,” Schmidt said.
With the Hounds only graduating three, Schmidt said the team needs to invest the time in the off-season if they want to improve on this years’ 10-27 record.
“They just need to work in the off-season if they don’t want a repeat of this year. “There’s some talent here, but you need to focus on improving each year.”