BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Lady Hounds collected just four hits in a 1-0 win to open a two-game set with Keokuk Thursday night.
Head Coach Jared Rehm said after the first game, he hoped the girls bats would wake up in the second game.
Those hopes were realized very quickly when sophomore Logan Johnson smoked a 3-1 pitch over the left field fence with no outs in the bottom of the first, enroute to a 7-3 win in the nightcap.
Kylee Cashman would work a walk and then Lexi Whaley, fresh out of junior high, sent another ball out to left to give Fort Madison a 3-0 lead with no outs.
Erica Kruse, who played for the Chiefs last year, was in the circle hurling for the Hounds and had things going her way early on. The freshman worked three ground outs in the first inning around a walk, and then gave up a single to Keokuk’s Rachel Moore in the second. Kruse would strand Moore when Natasha Cale grounded to Cashman to end the inning.
Whaley would get her second round-tripper of the night with two outs in the bottom half of the second when she lined Kayleigh Zanger’s first offering over the left field fence for a 4-0 lead. The shot was Whaley’s fifth on the year, which leads Class 4A and is tied for third in all classes.
Whaley came up through travel ball with the Sliders, Black Dragons and now Barricudas and has slid very well into varsity ball.
“I just try and stay focused during practice and try to hit my best all the time,” Whaley said. “That way I can prove to the coaches where I’m at in the lineup.”
Kruse would find a little trouble in the third after issuing a walk to Heaven Dove. Dove would swipe second and move to third on a Gracie Koeber ground out. Zanger would then ground back to Kruse allowing Dove to score on the fielder’s choice.
Alivia Myhre would double to left, but Abby Thompson would ground out to Whaley at 3rd for the third out.
The Chiefs would score again in the fourth to cut the lead to two when Taeja Anderson would score from third with one out on a Cale groundout to first.
Both teams would go scoreless until the Lady Hounds found some breathing room in the bottom of the sixth. Cashman ripped a 2-1 pitch to left center and motored all the way to third. Whaley would draw a walk, and then Cashman would swipe home on the first pitch to Ivy Geerdes.
With one out, Whaley and Geerdes would score on an two-run single to left from Maycee Featheringill. Clary Fuerman would draw a walk, but Emily Steffensmeier would ground back to the pitcher to end the inning.
The Chiefs would manage one run in the top half of the seventh, but Myhre was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double with two outs to end the game.
Cashman, Whaley, Johnson, and Kruse each had two hits in the game. Whaley had 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. Cashman scored twice. Kendall Beebe, Steffensmeier, Featheringill, Geerdes and Alyson Helmick each had hits.
In the opener, Neeley Rehm and Abby Thompson were the story line.
Rehm went the distance mixing up pitch speeds and allowing just three hits and one walk, while striking out eight in the shut out.
“It’ was pretty good,” Rehm said. “I track ’em and just hope I call the game correctly. I like to go to her strengths. Obviously she’s not throwing 70, so we need to go to the off-speed and the spin.”
The Chiefs Thompson gave up four hits and three walks against two strikeouts and allowed the only run of the game.
Senior Dalyn Wondra singled to left to start the fourth. Rehm would fly out to left for the first out, before Geerdes doubled on a line drive to right-center that scored Wondra all the way from first. Keokuk would get the next two hitters out to end the inning.
Fort Madison stranded two in the bottom of the sixth when Geerdes would get a two-out walk and Kruse would get plunked, Alyson Helmick would fly out to center to move to the 7th.
Rehm would set the Chiefs down in order to preserve the win.
Rehm said the Hounds struggled with Thompson’s change of pace from the mound.
“When we see pitching with velocity behind it, we can do some damage with that,” he said. “We struggled with the off-speed in the first game, but our defense played phenomenal. I don’t think we had an error.”
Cashman would lead the Hounds with two hits. Wondra and Geerdes had the other two hits in the game. Koeber had two hits for Keokuk and Kayde Martin had one
Fort Madison is now 6-3 on the year and 4-0 in the conference. They’ve won their last four games and will be tested on Monday when they travel to Fairfield 8-1 (4-0).