COUNCIL BLUFFS — Ana Petersen flipped around. Two pitches later, she was jogging around the bases.
It’s been a rough month of softball for the Harlan Community junior. She endured a 0-for-22 stretch as a right-handed batter before coaches started trying her out as a slap-hitting lefty last week.
“It was a change,” Petersen said. “But I feel like if I can get on more for the team, it will put us in more of a position toward winning and that’s what it’s all about.”
But tied with Council Bluffs Lewis Central in the third inning Thursday night, Petersen came up with the bases loaded. Coach Megan Hoch signaled for her to bat from the right side, and the No. 6 hitter launched a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left-center field to spark the visiting Cyclones to an 8-5 triumph over the Titans.
The blast came following a Minden Brix single and walks to Taylor Schaben and Kelsey Croghan, all with one out.
Petersen said she thought she had popped out. Instead, she was celebrating her first varsity home run.
“That was quite a surprise,” Lewis Central coach Don Wittstruck said. “I’m like, ‘OK, it is what it is.’ Somebody has to lose and it just happened to be us.”
Petersen also plated a runner with a fielder’s choice groundout in the first to finish with five RBIs. Schaben picked up the win in the circle while striking out eight. The cleanup hitter also reached base three times — twice after getting hit by a pitch.
“It wasn’t Taylor’s best night, by far,” Hoch said. “But our sticks were there to back her up.”
Iowa Class 4-A No. 15 Harlan (19-7, 14-1 Hawk-10) needed the offense. Lewis Central (21-11, 10-5) answered in the bottom of the first on a two-run double from Molly Cunard. The home team got two more in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Steffi Cunard and a runner from third coming home as a teammate attempted to steal second.
The Titans mounted a mini-rally in the seventh on a run-scoring double from McKena Duffek, but Lewis Central left Iowa Western recruit Allie Martinez in the on-deck circle as the potential tying run to end the night.
Harlan also beat its league foe 6-4 on June 10. Both sides could meet again in regional action July 13 in Harlan if Lewis Central first can get past Glenwood two days earlier.
Wittstruck said he was pleased to see the Titans commit just one error against the Cyclones after witnessing double digits in a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Clarinda on Tuesday. That ugly evening means his team will be practicing daily until the postseason begins next month.
“We had a couple (mistakes) tonight but it didn’t really hurt us,” Wittstruck said. “They looked a lot better tonight than they did in Clarinda.”
Duffek struck out eight for Lewis Central, but Harlan still managed to add a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Three straight bunt hits and a fielding error made it 8-4.
“I think we have a variety (of threats),” Petersen said. “Just getting on the base and keeping line drives (coming) is the key.”
Harlan (19-7, 14-1).........................204 002 0—8 8 0
Lewis Central (21-11, 10-5)...........200 200 1—5 5 1
WP: Taylor Schaben. LP: McKena Duffek.
2B: LC, Duffek, Molly Cunard. HR: H, Ana Petersen.
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