Winterset ends Rams’ season in regional finals

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    ATLANTIC - For the second straight game a home run played a major factor for the Glenwood softball team.
    But this time, the Rams came up on the wrong end of that long ball.
    Karly Olson’s two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning was all Winterset needed to get past Glenwood 2-0 in the Class 4A Regional final at Atlantic last Tuesday.
    “It was a rise ball. It’s Molly’s strikeout pitch,” said Glenwood coach Tim Stanton of Olson’s shot. “(Pitcher) Molly (Bryan) put it where she needed to put it and the girl hit it. It was a good hit. She took a good chop at it and she hit it out. They caught us the one time and we…we had some fly balls.”
    The Rams reached the regional final on the previous Thursday thanks to a McKenna Henze three-run shot in the 11th inning that carried Glenwood to a 4-2 win over Harlan.
    On Tuesday, Olson was the hero for the Huskies – at the plate and in the circle. The Winterset ace was simply masterful against Glenwood. She struck out 11 of the first 12 Rams she faced, mostly swinging, and had a perfect game going through 6 1/3 innings.
    As good as Olson pitched, Bryan nearly matched her. The Rams’ fifth-year starter in the circle held the Huskies hitless into the fourth inning before giving up back-to-back hits, including Olson’s homer.
    The Huskies opened the fourth with a skitter Taylor Benshoof beat out for the game’s first hit. After getting to 0-2 on Olson, the junior jumped on Bryan’s inside rise ball and smacked her team-leading sixth home run of the season to give Winterset the 2-0 lead.
    Bryan bounced back to strikeout the side in the inning – she finished with 10 strikeouts – but the damage was done. Bryan would allow just one hit the rest of the way.
    The score would remain at 2-0 through the seventh when the Rams showed some signs of life at the plate. Lisa Nebel took first base on an Olson hit-by-pitch and Bryan smacked a single to left field for runners at first and second with one out. A Cassie Kruse sacrifice moved both Nebel and Bryan around for junior designated hitter Jaelin Stanton, who entered the game second on the team with a .362 batting average and 26 RBIs. But Olson wouldn’t be denied. She struck out Stanton swinging for her 16th strikeout of the night.
    “When pitchers like her and Molly, who throw so much junk, have the wind in their face, the ball breaks even more,” Coach Stanton said. “I said before we left Glenwood if that breeze is coming out of the north it’s going to be quite a show. And it was. One pitch for them, the home run. Having Jae (Stanton) up at the plate at the end with two on, I didn’t think we could do much better than that. It just didn’t happen for us.”
    Stanton bristled at the notion that “one pitch” by Bryan was a mistake. Rather, he said, it was a case of a good hitter getting a good swing.
    “She (Bryan) threw that pitch a 100 times,” he said. “I can’t really call it a mistake. That pitch struck out a lot of kids. I wouldn’t call it a mistake. I’d call it a good hit. (Catcher) Bailey (Starner) called a pitch, Molly shook her off and she liked the pitch and I’m supporting her 100 percent. She struck out 200-some people this year with that pitch. It just didn’t get by her and she put a good swing on it.”
    Stanton took some of the blame for his team’s struggles at the plate, saying his team didn’t have a good scouting report of Olson and that showed. The Rams finished with just one hit, a season-low.
    “Two runs, we ought to be able to get that,” Stanton said. “I didn’t know she (Olson) was a rise ball pitcher. We worked on all the other junk pitched today and hit them well. We just didn’t work on the rise ball because I didn’t remember her (Olson) having it and that’s my mistake. It’s hard to get a good scouting report and that was probably a coaching error because we could have worked on that pitch and we didn’t.”
    Stanton called the 2012 season a “roller coaster” ride that saw the Rams with 26 games and finish just a game short of what would have been their first state tournament appearance since 1970.
    “It was up and down with emotions, it was up and down with players being here and being gone,” he said. “We got everybody back at the end of the season and we were having a hard time gelling because when somebody plays while somebody is out and then they come back, you lose that continuity that it takes to have a really successful team.
    “And we busted our butts the last two weeks to try and get this team to come together and it did. We played that way against Harlan and we’re probably one pitch from going 14 or 15 innings with these guys.  I was proud the kids came together at the right time. We as a coaching staff, and I have the best coaching staff you could ask for, worked hard to do that. I feel bad for our kids.”