The past two weeks have served as a bit of a wake up call for the Malcolm softball team. The team is a mix of talented and experienced upperclassmen with some young players that provide a spark. As a whole, the team is struggling to find its way.
Arguably the top team in its conference, the Clippers dropped a pair of conference games last week, including the Sept. 28 conference tournament championship game. Behind a solid performance from all-stater Kylie Allen, third-seeded Auburn – the tournament host – upended the Clippers 6-1 to take the East Central Nebraska Conference crown.
Malcolm got on the board first when second inning singles from Jordyn Virus, Hailey Wessel and Jaiden Helms loaded the bases. Allen then hit Mikayla DeBaets with a pitch to bring in Virus and put the Clippers on top. With the bases still loaded, the Clippers’ leading hitter, Anna Schroeder drove a ball deep to center field where Harmony Frank robbed Schroeder of a grand slam as she made a miracle catch while falling over the outfield fence.
“That was a killer,” Malcolm co-head coach Andrew Edwards. “If that ball gets out, we’re up 5-0 with all the momentum.”
The one-run lead was short-lived as Macy Rieschick tripled off of Wessel. Allen then blasted the ball over the center field fence to grab the lead. That was all Auburn needed as Allen shut down the Malcolm bats, allowing just three base runners the rest of the way.
On a cool and rainy afternoon, the game was called after six innings because of lightning.
“Our offensive production went right out the window in that game,” Clippers’ co-head coach Travis Meyer said. “I fear our confidence went out with it.”
The loss came after two dominating performances in pool play competition as the Clippers handled Cass County Central 5-1 before making quick work of Yutan-Mead, 12-0. Schroeder and Wessel each homered against the Patriots as the Clippers pounded nine hits in the three-inning contest.
The Clippers’ defensive struggles from the previous weekend carried into the early part of last week as they committed six errors in a Sept. 24 game against Freeman. The Falcons spoiled Senior Night at Malcolm with a 12-7 upset.
Freeman took an early 5-2 lead but Malcolm closed the deficit to one run in the bottom of the fourth. A failed suicide squeeze to open the bottom of the fifth led to a three up, three down inning.
The Freeman bats caught fire in the sixth as the Falcons plated seven runs on six hits.
“It’s becoming a theme for our team,” Meyer said. “We’re not playing good defense, and we’re giving away too many free bases.”
Two Malcolm freshmen had a big night at the plate as Alanea Babb and Alyssa Fortik each hit a two-run home run.
“We have a some serious potential with our freshmen players,” Meyer said. “The sky is the limit for how good that group can be.”
The Clippers opened the week with a 12-0 win over Wilber-Clatonia. The Sept. 23 game was a makeup of an early season game that was postponed because of rain.
Malcolm (15-8) entered the week in fourth place in the Class C wildcard point standings. The Clippers travel to Conestoga (2-22) for a Thursday night matchup before playing in the Yutan-Mead Invitational Saturday, Oct. 5. The Clippers could see either Auburn (18-5) or Cozad (19-6) in the championship game.
“Right now we need to plan on winning every game from here on out,” Meyer said. “That has to be the goal. Win out this week. Win districts. Get to Hastings.”