Late momentum sends AGWSR softball to semifinal win

The AGWSR softball team surrounds home plate as they wait to welcome Rachel Sicard (11) after her seventh-inning home run in a 1A state semifinal against Akron-Westfield on Wednesday afternoon. (Jake Ryder/The Grundy Register)

FORT DODGE – The name of the game for Akron-Westfield on Wednesday afternoon was trying to deny AGWSR softball any momentum.

 

The Westerners took that challenge head-on, frequently switching between two pitchers and generally trying to catch the Cougars off-balance.

 

But once AGWSR truly got going, there was no stopping the Cougars.

 

AGWSR made Akron-Westfield pay for missed opportunities, racking up 11 runs over the final three innings of a 12-5 romp over the Westerners in a 1A state semifinal matchup to send the Cougars to Thursday's 1A state championship game.

 

AGWSR (28-7) will play top-seeded Collins-Maxwell (29-1) at 6 p.m. on Thursday as the Cougars will play in a title game for the first time since winning it all in 2015.

 

"We're in the 'ship!" AGWSR co-coach Brenda Drake exclaimed after the win. "Whole new team, whole new look but I think they're excited and ready to go."

 

Rachel Sicard finished 3 for 5 with four RBI and a three-run home run in the seventh inning, Taryan Barrick added a 3-for-5 performance with three RBI and MaKenna Kuper was 3 for 3 with one RBI and a leadoff home run to start the game.

 

The Cougars never trailed in the game thanks to Kuper's 10th home run of the season, a towering shot to right-center field.

 

"You get back to the dugout and everyone's like, 'Oh my gosh,'" Kuper said. "But you just have to say, 'Yep, now it's your turn, you gotta do it.'"

 

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Akron-Westfield pulled within three runs, 7-4, after six innings on an RBI hit from Lily Kenny and a two-RBI single from Nielsen.

 

"We knew one wouldn't be enough," Drake said. "We were going to have to come back and adjust and hit. … (Akron-Westfield's) a good hitting team that can slap, bunt and hit and you can't let down one bit."

 

But the Cougars again sent nine to the plate in the seventh inning to all but end the Westerners' threat, including the three-run round-tripper from Sicard.

 

Sicard had been swinging for the fences at times on Wednesday and finally tagged one to left-center in the seventh.

 

"It felt awesome knowing there was some reassurance on the board and that Taryan can relax and just pitch," Sicard said.

 

Kuper added: "I know she really wanted one, you just can't get down on yourself out there, you gotta keep pushing. … This game can make you want to throw everything down and quit some days and that's what's great about it, the next day you could have a heck of a game."

 

The Cougars sure had one on Wednesday, and they hope to make the most out of AGWSR's return to the state championship stage.

 

"We're gonna sleep in our own beds tonight because we get a little cranky if we don't do that," Kuper said. "We're just gonna enjoy the night with each other and come back tomorrow ready to play."

 

A full recap of AGWSR's run at state softball will run in next week's Grundy Register. Visit thegrundyregister.com after Thursday night's championship game for a recap of the title matchup.