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No. 1 Panthers zip No. 2 Warriors in softball clash

LATE TAG — Central Springs runner Kaylea Fessler (8) slides safely under the late tag by North Union catcher Shelby Fraker following a wild pitch during Iowa prep softball action Thursday night in Swea City. (Photo by Greg Abel)

SWEA CITY — Thursday’s highly-anticipated Iowa prep softball clash between the Class 2A No. 1-ranked Central Springs Panthers and the No. 2 North Union Warriors was not close on the scoreboard.

Central Springs ace starter Cooper Klaahsen and left-handed closer Kaylea Fessler combined to fire a three-hit shutout, while Madisyn Kelley collected three of the Panthers’ 12 hits and Fessler went 2-for-2 with three runs scored to top a 10-0, five-inning victory over North Union in Swea City.

The Warriors’ coaching staff allowed junior ace right-hander Emily Meyer to face the Panthers’ batting order only one time through before moving third baseman Cassie Beadle inside the chalked circle to close out the final three frames.

Meyer — who entered the game as the Iowa Class 2A leader in wins (22) and strikeouts (214), while posting the No. 2 ERA (0.76) behind Klaahsen — allowed two earned runs on three hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk in two-plus innings pitched to absorb just her third loss of the summer.

Beadle gave up eight runs on nine hits, walked four, struck out one and hit one batter in three innings of relief for North Union.

“I’m guessing they (Warrior coaches) didn’t want us to get a good look at Emily’s pitches because the two of us might face each other in the playoffs at some point down the line, but I can’t speak for them,” said Central Springs head coach BJ Fessler. “We’re just focusing on figuring out what aspects, both mentally and physically, we need to work on in order to get better as we near the postseason.

“We’ve been put to the test starting on Saturday by facing three state-ranked teams in (Class 2A No. 14) Columbus Catholic (on Saturday), (Class 2A No. 15) West Fork last night and now No. 2-ranked North Union tonight.”

Central Springs downed Columbus Catholic, 6-1; defeated West Fork by an 8-2 decision; and shut out North Union in a run-ruled contest to improve to 21-1 overall. The Warriors lowered their overall record to 22-3.

Kaylea Fessler, who’s headed to Missouri Western State University in Saint Joseph, Mo., to play softball, led off Thursday night’s game with a towering double to left field off of Meyer before Kelley drilled a single to left to put Panthers on the corners. Kelley will continue her softball career at Des Moines Area Community College next season.

Kaylea Fessler then scored on a wild pitch before Ellyan Ryan — Kelley’s courtesy runner — crossed the plate on Aurora Stapleton’s safety squeeze bunt for a quick 2-0 lead in the first.

North Union proved why it’s highly-ranked by producing two hits before Klaahsen and Central Springs’ defense denied the Warriors from scoring with two runners in scoring position during the bottom of the first.

Sam Nielsen smacked a leadoff single before wheeling to third base on Naomi Jones’ rising double, that a centerfielder Kaylea Fessler nearly caught following a long sprint to the fence. Panther shortstop Abby Pate, the team’s regular second baseman, gloved a hard grounder off the bat of Maggie Engelby and rifled a throw to first base to record the third out.

“We’re giving Ashlyn Hoeft, our regular shortstop, a break due to a nagging injury and moved Abby to short, and she made some big plays for us,” said BJ Fessler. “We’re fortunate that we have the depth to make that move, and it helps instill the idea that we can overcome anything if we work hard.”

Meyer then struck out the Central Springs’ side in order during the second before allowing a leadoff single to Sharli Fessler in the third.

Beadle replaced Meyer in the circle and allowed back-to-back singles to Kaylea Fessler and Kelley before North Union shortstop Libby Stevens displayed her defensive prowess. Stevens gloved a line drive off Lizzy Hamand’s bat and flipped to third baseman Beth Streuber before Sharli Fessler could return to the bag for a pivotal double play. Warriors’ catcher Shelby Fraker corraled a foul popup to thwart the Panthers’ third-inning threat.

Carly Ryan and Hamand each delivered clutch two-run doubles to highlight Central Springs’ six-run outburst during the top of the fourth. Azaria McDonough and Sharli Fessler each contributed a single, while Pate dropped down an RBI sacrifice bunt to help fuel the run production.

McDonough later doubled in the fifth and scored on Sharli Fessler’s RBI groundout before Kaylea Fessler later walked and scored on an error on a dropped third strike.

Beadle accounted for the Warriors’ third hit by legging out a bunt hit during the bottom of the third inning.

Klaahsen, who leads Class 2A in lowest ERA at 0.67, struck out four and did not issue a walk in four innings pitched to improve to 16-0 overall on the season.

North Union (22-3) travels to Algona, Iowa, tonight for a 6 p.m. conference game against Bishop Garrigan. Central Springs (21-1) plays host to league opponent Rockford tonight in Manly, Iowa.

CS 200 62 — 10 12 2

NU 000 00 — 0 3 1

Cooper Klaahsen (WP), Kaylea Fessler (5) and Madisyn Kelley. Emily Meyer (LP), Cassie Beadle (3) and Shelby Fraker.

LOB–Central Springs 7, North Union 4. 2B–Naomi Jones (NU), Kaylea Nessler (CS), Lizzy Hamand (CS), Azaria McDonough (CS) and Carly Ryan (CS). SAC–Aurora Stapleton (CS) and Abby Pate (CS).

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