(Lenox) — The Mount Ayr softball team used a four-run third inning and got a solid outing from their lone senior en route to a key Pride of Iowa Conference win Thursday night.
The Raiderettes (9-1) — who entered the Class 2A rankings at No. 15 Thursday — knocked off Lenox 5-0 on the road.
"We came up here tonight and knew they would be really good," said Mount Ayr Co-Coach Bret Ruggles. "(TJ) Stoaks is fantastic, and she does not miss her spots. She has a rise ball that is so hard to get ahold of. I thought our girls were aggressive early in the count, which was our goal coming in -- go after the first or second pitch. I thought we did a pretty good job of that. We had a couple times when we missed that first pitch and got in a bad position."
Mount Ayr struck in the first inning when leadoff hitter Sam Stewart singled, stole second, stole third and scored on an errant throw back to the pitcher. Things would stay quiet until the third, when Stewart once again set the table, reaching on an error.
Following a flyout, Caroline McAlexander smacked her second home run of the season to put the Raiderettes in front 3-0. Abbigail Barnes was hit by a pitch and Alexa Anderson singled to put two on for Rachel Sobotka, who sent a 2-RBI double into the outfield to give Mount Ayr a 5-0 lead.
Neither team would score again, despite plenty of traffic on the bases. The Raiderettes left 10 runners on base, while Lenox saw its best rally come to an end in the fourth. Cassidy Nelson led-off the frame by doubling off the left field fence with one out. TJ Stoaks followed that with a walk, but McAlexander would get a strike out and a fly out to close the inning.
McAlexander was good in the circle, going the distance with seven strikeouts against just one walk. The senior hurler surrendered four hits and finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a homer and two RBI.
"Caroline is competitively wild," said Ruggles. "It seems like she is always in 0-2 counts and she'll work her way to a 3-2 count, but she puts them away. I don't think batters can ever really square her up. A couple times, Lenox had some nice hits tonight -- one down right field and one down left field that I was pretty impressed with."
"We're one of the top two teams in the conference and that just shows that we're okay with pushing ourselves," said McAlexander. "Like Coach Ruggles said in our huddle, we have nine batters and some of us fizzle and some of us show up. That's a hard lineup to get through. We really showed up tonight."
In total, Mount Ayr pounded out 11 hits, including three from Sobotka and two from Halsie Barnes. Stewart reached base four times, stole three bases and scored two runs in the win.
Following the win, KMA Sports talked with Ruggles, McAlexander and Sobotka in a video you can view below.
Stoaks took the loss for the Tigers (11-2), striking out seven. Stoaks, Nelson, McKinna Hogan and Lauren Christensen all hit safely once.