MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Muscatine Community College softball team didn’t get much on the scoreboard.
The Cardinals offense put together two big offensive bursts, though, and then made the right defensive plays at the right time Wednesday night — even if strong winds added a degree of difficulty.
MCC got a big shutout from Kayla Gaunt in the first game and an even bigger home run from Bailey Oetting in the second as part of a doubleheader sweep over Southeastern Community College at Kent-Stein Park.
Muscatine won the opener 2-0 and held off a late Blackhawks rally for a 5-4 win in the nightcap. The win pushed Muscatine to second place in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Division I standings.
“We continue to compete,” MCC coach Scott Beatty said, “and that is crucial for us. … We need to deal with failure and be able to push through.”
The Blackhawks trailed 5-2 at the start of the seventh inning in the second game but moved runners along to push through two runs and were threatening for more with runners on first and third with two outs.
Southeastern’s Jennifer Santa Cruz lifted a high fly ball to left field and Maggy Williams seemed to lose sight of the ball as it swayed in the stiff winds blowing out to right field, twisting and turning but ending up with the ball at the warning track for the third out and securing a Muscatine (31-10, 4-4 ICCAC Division I) victory.
“The wind was really carrying it, and she did a good job of tracking it down,” Oetting, MCC's catcher, said.
Oetting put the Cardinals in position to close the game out with her three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning on Southeastern (15-24, 3-7) pitcher Jaleesa Kindred’s first pitch.
“I don’t even know why I swung at it, I just swung at it,” Oetting admitted afterward.
The swing crushed the ball well over the left field fence and provided plenty of insurance for Game 2 starter Bailey Blake.
“[Oetting’s] her harshest critic and we’ve been working with her on her mental approach at the plate,” Beatty said.
Blake led the MCC defense in finishing off the Blackhawks in the seventh. Blake allowed seven hits and three earned runs.
“Bailey Blake did an incredible job tonight,” Beatty said. “Kayla and Bailey are logging a lot of innings right now.”
Gaunt put in her work in the doubleheader’s opener, striking out seven with zero walks and six hits allowed.
“I didn’t have a lot of speed as I’m pretty sore from the past couple of games, but my drop balls were really killing it in the wind,” Gaunt said.
Gaunt burned through her first three innings of work before allowing her first hit and though Southeastern reached third base several times, Gaunt and her defense worked their way out of each jam.
Muscatine got all four of its hits in the first game in the fourth inning, capped by a two-RBI single from Madison Kaalberg that gave Gaunt the run support she needed.
The Cardinals needed support off the field as well, making adjustments to compensate for teammates unable to play.
Beatty noted that Oetting has had back spasms in the last 48 hours and Gaunt is working through shin splints. In addition to across-the-board soreness, centerfielder Paige Wieland has been sidelined by injury and Cardinals pitcher Mariah Freel is seeking treatment in a Chicago hospital for severe migraines.
“The kids are doing a great job working through it,” Beatty said. “[Defensively] we’re continuing to grow: Jessica Newton had a nice game at second base, … she did really well with her small game.”
Division play continues Friday with a doubleheader at divisional leader Iowa Western before the Cardinals return home in a doubleheader with Indian Hills Saturday.
“This [sweep] really helped us out,” Oetting said.
Gaunt added, “We either have our defense working well or our offense going well and we just need to find a medium where we can bring them together.”