NIWOT — The Niwot softball team could enter almost every game relying on its lineup loaded with big-time bats. But that’s just not the Cougars’ style.
On Monday Niwot utilized its collective speed and knack for running the bases right alongside the club’s habit for delivering clutch hits, as the Cougars raced to an early lead before withstanding a late Longmont rally to record a 5-3 Northern League victory.
Two of the three runs Niwot scored en route to a 3-0 lead after two innings scored on delayed steals of home plate, an effort sparked by junior Bailey Kleespies in the first inning.
“Having Bailey, that’s what she does — Bailey wrecks havoc whenever she gets on base,” Niwot coach Bobby Matthews said. “That’s kind of her job, to get on base however she can. She’s a great baserunner. She’s not ridiculously fast, but she’s very smart. Kind of like Larry Walker used to be; not overly fast, but very smart.”
Kleespies rapped a one-out double in the first before advancing to third on a stolen base. She caught the Trojans napping and managed to steal home to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead, which Alyssa Meadows extended to 2-0 with an RBI single.
Another swipe of home, this time by Rosie Cain on a double-steal in the second, pushed Niwot’s lead to 3-0.
While Longmont pitcher Hali Walters turned in a solid effort, striking out nine in six innings of work, offensively the Trojans could not take advantage of several golden scoring opportunities. Longmont left the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings, and also had runners thrown out on the basepaths in key situations in the third and fifth.
“One of the messages to the team was that we wasted an extremely great effort from our pitcher,” Longmont coach Randy Woodson said. “Nine strikeouts against a great hitting team. We wasted a great effort on her part. They did everything they could to give us scoring chances and we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Niwot received yet another big hit from sophomore Grace Ladd. Already the team leader in RBIs, Ladd smacked a two-run single in the fifth that provided a 5-0 cushion for Cougars starter Meghan Waidler.
“I just think about driving the ball up the middle and just scoring my teammates,” Ladd said. “I’ve been seeing the ball really well in practice and I’m carrying that confidence into the games.”
After pitching out of trouble throughout the contest, Waidler finally ran out of gas in the seventh after a hit, an error, and a walk loaded the bases once again for Longmont. Though reliever Madison Kunkel allowed all three inherited runners to score, two of them occurring on wild pitches, the sophomore kept any more Longmont hitters from reaching base to preserve the win.
“Meghan didn’t have all her stuff today, but she buckled down when she had to,” Matthews said. “That’s one of the reasons we left her in there as long as we did — she was getting the outs when she needed to.”
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Niwot 5, Longmont 3
At Niwot HS
Longmont 000 000 3 — 3 7 2
Niwot 210 020 x — 5 7 2
W — Waidler. L — Walters. Sv — Kunkel.
Longmont hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Nielsen 4-0-0-0, Kowalksi 3-0-1-0, Owens 4-1-3-0, Walters 4-1-2-0, Sayles 1-1-0-0, Moore 3-0-0-1, Herold 3-0-0-0, Aitken 3-0-1-0, Tilton 1-0-0-0, Rosebrook 1-0-0-0. Totals 27-3-7-1. SB — Walters
Niwot hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — DeLozier 3-1-0-0, Kleespies 2-2-1-0, Ladd 3-0-1-2, Waidler 3-0-1-0, Law 0-1-0-0, Meadows 3-0-2-1, Cain 2-1-1-0, Towner 3-0-0-0, Kunkel 3-0-1-0, Johnson 2-0-0-0. Totals 24-5-7-3. 2B — Kleespies, Waidler. SB — Kleespies 2, Kunkel 2, Cain.
Longmont pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Walters 6-7-5-4-2-9.
Niwot pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Waidler 6-7-3-3-5-5; Kunkel 1-0-0-0-0-1.