Prep softball: No. 15 Lady Dees hold off Rockets

May 27—EDDYVILLE — Lillian and Chloe DeMoss may have introduced it to the team this season.

So far, Sydney Hoskins is the only Albia softball player that has yet to put the team's new 'home run' hat on her head. In each case, it helped the 15th-ranked (3A) Lady Dees pull out a tough South Central Conference road win.

Just two nights after delivering a lead-off tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning of Albia's season-opening 4-3 win at Clarke, Hoskins struck again on Friday night at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. The two-run blast to left center in the third inning by the junior catcher helped the Lady Dees get off to a strong start against the Rockets, a start that would prove to be very valuable as Albia held on in the late innings to clinch an 8-6 conference win over EBF, improving to 2-0 on the season and 2-0 in SCC play.

"Lillian and Chloe purchased it and were really excited to bring it to practice," Hoskins said. "So, now we have a home run hat for the season. Every time we hit a home run, we have to sit down in the dugout and put the hat on."

Perhaps the most emotion that Hoskins showed on Friday came several innings after hitting her second home run of the season. After having a five-run lead cut down to two in the bottom of the seventh, Albia freshman pitcher Grace Pence faced EBF hurler Lanie Batterson with twin sisters Molly and Kate Shafer standing at third and second base, putting the Rockets a hit away from completing the comeback.

Pence, after giving up seven hits to the Rockets in the final two innings, finally put the game away by striking out Batterson for the fourth time in the game. Hoskins caught the strike, then leaped up in celebration of another hard-fought conference win for the Lady Dees.

"Grace just has to make sure she believes in herself," Hoskins said of her young batterymate. "Her self-confidence and her trust in our defense is something she needs to make sure she has. We have a good defense. We can make plays behind her. She just has to make sure she believes in herself and that will carry over to her pitching."

Pence looked like one of the best pitchers in the state through the first five innings on Friday, shutting out EBF while allowing just one hit and one walk. After striking out seven of the first nine Rocket batters, Pence responded after giving up a two-out double to Molly Shafer in the third inning by retiring the next seven batters racking up three more strikeouts as Albia took a commanding 5-0 lead into the sixth.

"Grace was definitely on. She did a great job," Hoskins said. "She definitely had the confidence. It's so nice to see her have that confidence and see what she can do."

EBF, coming off a doubleheader sweep of Fairfield in which the Rockets scored 23 combined runs on 27 combined hits, suddenly came alive at the plate after Sadie Jager drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the sixth, bringing the top of the batting order up for a third time. Molly Shafer delivered her second hit of the night before scoring along with Hailey Boyer on a two-run double by Kate Shafer, suddenly cutting Albia's lead to 5-2.

"There is nothing easy in this conference," Albia softball coach Darren Hill said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing, but especially if it's EBF, the game is never over. They have a nice squad. You just have to keep things in perspective, not get too high and try not to get too low. Good things are going to happen throughout the season and bad things are also going to happen."

EBF's rally continued with a single by Megan Lobberecht that set up Kaylee Helm, who singled in both Kate Shafer and Lobberecht suddenly cutting Albia's lead to 5-4 without yielding an out in the sixth. Helm made it down to second base, moving within a base hit of potentially tying the game, before Pence got Ella Ray to fly out to deep center to keep the Lady Dees in front heading into the seventh.

"Our kids battled and made adjustments at the plate," EBF head softball coach Tony Fenton said. "We started to string some hits together. We just couldn't keep them from putting up some big insurance runs."

Sayler Rozenboom came through for Albia with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh, beating out an infield single to put the Lady Dees up 6-4 while extending the inning for Lillian DeMoss. The sophomore infielder added a two-run single to left to seemingly put Albia back in command taking an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh.

EBF, however, fought back again. Sydney Collett and Jager opened the final innings with back-to-back singles before Molly Shafer drew a walk to load the bases, bringing the tying run back up to the plate. Kate Shafer singled in Kendra Krause to cut Albia's lead to 8-5 before Pence responded by striking out Lobberecht, moving the Lady Dees within two outs of the win.

Helm grounded out to second, driving in Boyer cutting Albia's lead to 8-6 while moving the Shafer sisters into scoring position. Batterson, who hit her first career home run just 24 hours earlier against Fairfield, battled to a 3-2 count before Pence delivered her 12th strikeout of the game to secure the win for the Lady Dees.

"We do a very good job of pushing ourselves to finish all the way through," Hoskins said. "That has been an issue for us in the past, so we work to make sure we have the stamina and willpower to push all the way to end.

"It's going to be like this all season in this conference," Hill added. "No lead is safe until you get that 21st out."

No. 15 (3A) Albia (2-0, 2-0 SCC) steps out of conference on Tuesday for a trip to Pella Christian. EBF (3-2, 1-2 SCC) also steps out of conference on Wednesday for a trip to Moravia.