Jun. 25—ELDON — Carly Goodwin can't strike everyone out.
On Thursday night, Goodwin admitted she didn't have her best stuff in the pitching circle. As a result, 14th-ranked (2A) Cardinal was able to make contact and put runners on base with a chance to knock off No. 11 (1A) Sigourney in a battle of area teams hoping to end their seasons at the state softball tournament.
While Goodwin did strike out nine Comets on Thursday, moving within range of surpassing 600 career strikeouts, the sophomore pitcher needed some help from her friends. While it wasn't flawless, the Savages had Goodwin's back when it mattered most stranding the potential tying run in scoring position in each of the final three innings to clinch a hard-earned 2-1 road win.
"I kind of knew in warm-ups that I didn't have my best stuff working for me," Goodwin said. "I knew I was going to have to trust my defense behind me. That came into play quite a few times."
Especially in the final four innings, where Goodwin recorded just four strikeouts as the Comets continued to show patience and poise to put runners on base, two of which came in the fourth to strand Maddy Lawson at third base. Riley Bears and Brinlee Ostrander recorded consecutive hits for the Comets in the fifth with one out before Madison Diveley moved both runners into scoring position.
That set up Cardinal lead-off hitter Caitlyn Reber, who connected on a line drive out to center. Courtney Hemsley, however, made the catch in her tracks to prevent Reber from delivering a game-tying two-out hit.
"I think we're going to learn a lot from this. They (Sigourney) are a solid team, but we're a solid team as well," Reber said. "We made a lot of solid contact. The balls just didn't drop for us. I think we learned off facing a pitcher with more speed. We adjusted in the last few innings. It was bit harder for us earlier on to adjust."
The Comets (15-11) proved to be more potent at the plate on Friday against Mediapolis, scoring seven runs in the first two innings on the way to a 12-2 win over the Bullettes in what could be a postseason preview between the teams. Cardinal, ranked just hours before taking the field on Thursday against Sigourney by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, earned the second seed in Class 2A, Region 7 and will open postseason play at home against either Danville or Mediapolis on July 6.
"We're super excited to see who we're going to get matched up with," Reber said. "I think we're going to learn a lot from these games as we get ready for regionals and prepare to see more of that faster pitching."
Sigourney, meanwhile, also earned the second seed and the possibility of multiple home regional tournament games at Schafer Field. The 18-5 Savages, who can clinch a South Iowa Cedar League title on Monday night at home with a win over Belle Plaine, open Class 1A, Region 8 play by hosting either Holy Trinity or Winfield-Mount Union on July 6 seeking to return to the state tournament after splitting a pair of games in Fort Dodge last summer.
"We've talked in the past couple of practices about giving it your all and the game will love you back," Goodwin said. "You have to trust yourself trust the things that you can do. Courtney made a couple big catches for us out in center field. She's always been that player that goes out there and gets it. I'm proud of her. She played great.
"Rain (Barthelman) also made a couple big plays in right field for us. The girls are trying their hardest going after every ball hit their way. It just helps me as a pitcher knowing they have my back."
Among those teammates that have Goodwin's back is her cousin, Josephine Moore. Sigourney's freshman catcher came up with yet another big hit to support her pitcher, her cousin and the rest of her teammates on Thursday with an RBI double in the third inning that brought in Ava Fisch with Sigourney's second run.
Moore has also stepped up this season behind the plate, taking over for last year's lone senior Kaylee Weber who helped motivate the Savages to make it to state. As the catcher of Goodwin, who has registered over 60-miles-an-hour on her fastballs, Moore has learned how to make sure the softball doesn't go sailing by which came in handy on Thursday in the late innings when Cardinal twice had a runner at third.
"It's been tough adjusting to a new position, but it's a big adrenaline rush when your in that position where you have to make every play to keep the team in front," Moore said. "Carly's pitches definitely hurt. I've been catch them in my thumb. That's why I drop everything. I'm still getting used to her speed, but it still hurts."
Cardinal heads to the North Mahaska Tournament on Saturday, facing the hosting Warhawks and Baxter in New Sharon. The Comets close out the regular season with four games in four days including home games on Monday with Moravia, Wednesday with Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and Thursday against Centerville as well as a Southeast Iowa Superconference south division road test on Tuesday at Central Lee.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.