BY ETHAN LILLARD
KEOKUK – Coming into Monday night’s matchup against Lee County and Southeastern conference foe Keokuk, Fort Madison softball sat three games under the five hundred mark at 3-6.
After Monday’s double-header at Joyce Park in Keokuk, Fort Madison is now just one win away from being .500 on the year, sweeping the double header 4-1, 8-6.
“It feels really good because we swept them the first time last year and then they swept us back,” Fort Madison Head Coach Jared Rehm said. “Hopefully we can get all four from them this year.”
Junior Cassie Powers drew the start for the Bloodhounds in game one and delivered with one of her best pitching performances of the season. What may have helped her confidence throughout the contest was run support.
Olivia Williams dominated from the lead-off spot for the Hounds, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate in game one. Williams started the first with a single before Kylee Cashman hit an infield single of her own to put runners on first and third.
Logan Johnson delivered from the No. 3 hole with a sacrifice fly to plate Williams for the 1-0 lead. Powers helped out her own cause the following at bat, hitting an RBI double to bring in Cashman for the 2-0 lead. Neeley Rehm came in to courtesy run for Powers and later came around to score on a wild pitch to move the Fort Madison lead to 3-0.
Through 2 2/3 innings, Powers had allowed just one hit. Then with two outs in the bottom of the third, Abby Arrowood came through with a double, before getting brought home on another double from Erika Kruse to trim the lead to 3-1.
Powers went on to record three of the next four outs on strikeouts before an error allowed Logan Johnson to score in the top of the fifth inning, giving Fort Madison a 4-1 lead. Powers held Keokuk to just one more hit over her final three innings of work to seal the win.
“This time I was letting Olivia Williams call the pitches,” Rehm said about the battery of Powers and Williams in game one. “It’s just (Cassie) and Olivia. I know what (Cassie) can do and I know what Olivia can do and they just do it themselves.”
Powers tossed 102 pitches over seven innings, allowing five hits and just one earned run while striking out eight. Logan Johnson, Powers and Maycee Featheringill all collected an RBI each for the Bloodhounds in the opener.
Kruse came on in relief during game one early and also drew the start for game two, With Fort Madison having already seen Kruse for a majority of game one, they now had caught on to her pitching style and speed.
Logan Johnson collected a double in the top of the second, before a Keokuk error helped Ivy Geerdes get on base safely and move Johnson to third in the process. Dalyn Wondra then singled to bring in Johnson for the first run of the game, giving the Hounds the 1-0 lead.
Much like the big inning that helped Fort Madison seal game one, another big inning provided the lift in game two.
Three straight singles to start the third inning coupled with another Chief fielding error scored both Williams and Katelyn Dennis to give the Bloodhounds a 3-0 lead. Powers then doubled to plate courtesy runner Rehm, before a Geerdes single scored Powers for a 5-0 Fort Madison lead.
The big inning continued as Wondra reached safely on another error, followed by a Venessa Golowach single that brought in Geerdes for a 6-0 advantage.
“Up until last Wednesday we weren’t doing that very well,” Rehm said about his team’s ability to collect hits and score runs. “We broke through with that Wapello win and they starting stringing hits together and getting runs.”
It was three-straight singles again that extended the lead to 7-0, as Johnson, Geerdes and Wondra singled to bring in Johnson.
Keokuk responded with a three-run inning in the bottom of the fourth and added another run in the top of the sixth, but still trailed 7-4. After a sacrifice fly from Featheringill brought in Jasmine Bass for an 8-4 lead, the game was all but sealed, at least that’s what Fort Madison thought.
A single and a triple with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning put pressure on the Hounds, as Keokuk was now within three. The triple was followed by a Fort Madison error, allowing the Chiefs to score another run and close the gap to 8-6. Kruse singled after the error, bringing the winning run to the plate for Keokuk with just one out.
Thankfully for Fort Madison, Katelyn Dennis re-grouped the Hound defense and forced the final two batters into back-to-back ground outs for the 8-6 win.
“I was a little bit (nervous), but I knew we could win and come through,” Powers said. ““I thought (Dennis) did a really good job and when things got tough, she didn’t give up and she fought through.”
Dennis picked up the win, throwing 112 pitches over seven innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out five. Williams, Powers, Johnson, Geerdes and Wondra each collected two-hit games in game two. Featheringill and Wondra paced Fort Madison with two RBIs each.
Fort Madison is competing in a tournament tomorrow (Tuesday) where they will play three games at Davenport.