MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa — Rick McHugh wasn’t overly concerned.
The Missouri Valley softball coach didn’t panic when Council Bluffs St. Albert’s Chloe Meyer smashed a home run off the scoreboard in left-center field on the second pitch of the Iowa Class 2-A regional opener. He waited while his eighth-grade pitcher, Alexis Cook, walked in another run later in the inning.
“If people were to look at our defense, I don’t really worry,” McHugh said. “And our offense, we can hit.”
The Lady Reds (16-17) did plenty of that while storming back at home to sink St. Albert 8-5 on a steamy Tuesday evening. While collecting eight hits, Missouri Valley also scored three runs on Saintes throwing errors and three more on wild pitches.
Senior Hailey Hellstrom swatted a home run to straightaway center and Alyssa Huber picked up an RBI single as part of a clinching four-run fifth inning. Baily Janssen, Lexie Dooley and Kyra Skelton each finished with two hits.
All helped ensure the Lady Reds would play again Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Logan-Magnolia (17-7).
St. Albert (2-20) kept things interesting even after watching an early lead evaporate in a cloud of mistakes. Freshman Bailey Clark followed a Mary Casson walk with a two-run homer, and the Saintes added another on an errant pitch. They brought the tying run to the plate with runners on the corners before Cook induced a pop out to end the game.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity this season,” Saintes coach Ashtyn Neil said. “If there’s one thing they’ve learned, it’s how to deal with that.”
The summer has indeed been rough for the Saintes. They began with two victories at Missouri Valley’s tournament in early June — reaching the finals — but never won again. Some players quit along the way, while others missed time for various reasons.
Clark, a freshman, struck out six while pitching for the first time in nearly three weeks after resting a shoulder injury. Starters Meyer and Kendall Biggs were away for chunks of time recently while participating in a national volleyball tournament.
“We overcame a lot of adversity and we came out strong,” Meyer said. “We always seem to have one bad inning, but we still play really well together.”
Neil, a longtime assistant, spent her first year as head coach filling in for Melissa Fidone while she spends more time with her young children. Despite the lopsided scores, she said she’ll remember a fun group of girls that included three seniors in Joni Thomas, Jenny Daley and Libby Mattingly.
“The people that I had finish this season never got down on each other,” Neil said. “They had each other’s backs no matter what. I never had to deal with drama, and I bet a lot of teams can’t say that.”
Cook kept the drama down for Missouri Valley despite the rocky start. One day after hurling a no-hitter in the final regular-season game against Riverside, she threw 124 pitches and avoided trouble by stranding nine Saintes on the base paths.
“Our defense is pretty sound,” McHugh said. “We just tell (Cook) to throw them and let (opponents) hit. We can’t defend a walk or a home run, but we can defend everything else.”
CB St. Albert (2-20) ........... 200 000 3—5 5 2
Missouri Valley (16-17) ...... 031 040 x—8 8 1
W: Alexis Cook. L: Bailey Clark. 2B: MV, Lexie Dooley. HR: CBSA, Chloe Meyer, Bailey Clark. MV, Hailey Hellstrom.