Softball: Kappel leads Cowgirls over Sidney

It may sound familiar, but it’s certainly not getting old for Custer County District High School sports fans: another Cowgirls’ softball game, another flame-throwing performance from junior pitcher Alexa Kappel. 

The Cowgirls faced the Sidney Lady Eagles at a windy Bender Park in Miles City on Tuesday and came away with the 10-6 victory behind Kappel’s 11 strikeouts and precision control. She yielded eight hits and no walks.

“Alexa was on fire today,” said Cowgirl coach Murrey Selk. “She was working hard. We’ve been ready and waiting for her to take charge, and she’s been doing that.”

“In warmups, my arm was feeling good,” Kappel said. “I felt pretty strong, and I came in with a positive attitude like I try to every game. I threw the pitches I needed to, did what I needed to do, and it worked out.”

Kappel threw four 1-2-3 innings, relying on both her accurate arm and her defense for outs. She tossed a complete seven innings with nearly 71 percent of her pitches hitting the strike zone. 

At the plate Cowgirls senior centerfielder Tori Ogolin finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, while sophomore shortstop Autumn Porter scored three runs. 

Seniors Hope Dittus and Arena Porter, as well as Autumn Porter, doubled for the Cowgirls, while Kappel helped her own cause with a two-out, stand-up triple. 

Every Cowgirl recorded at least one hit except for senior rightfielder Sarah Moore, but her two perfectly placed and timed sacrifice bunts demonstrated the Cowgirls’ ability to play small-ball to move runners and score runs. As a team, the Cowgirls recorded 12 hits, half for extra bases. 

Kappel had a four-run lead heading into the fourth inning, but cleanup hitter Madison Thiessen stroked a one-out three-run home run to put the Lady Eagles on the board. 

“It happens to every pitcher,” Kappel said about giving up the long ball. “You just gotta get used to it.” She finished off the next two batters with a strikeout and a pop out, and redeemed one run in the bottom of the fourth, stroking her triple and scoring easily on an Ogolin double. 

The Cowgirls added three more runs in the fifth, starting with an Autumn Porter single, a Madi Hill single that put Porter on third, a sac bunt from Moore to score Porter, and a line drive single from Kylee Licht to score Hill. Senior Hope Dittus finished the scoring run with a two-out double that sent Licht across the plate. 

Sidney made it interesting in their final at-bats with two out in the top of the seventh. After two quick strikeouts by Kappel, an infield hit and a solid single put two runners on. Leadoff second baseman Emily Skogen ripped a double into left, plating both runners. A pop out to Licht ended the game.

“I’m really impressed with Miles City,” said Lady Eagle head coach Frank DiFonzo. “They hit the ball well, and they ran the bases well. Do those things, and you’ll win most games. Our goal now is going to be beating Miles City. I told the girls that this is probably one of the better teams we’re going to see.” 

“It started off a lot better [today],” Selk said about the Cowgirls’ ability to score runs early. “They held a really good performance all the way through.”

The Cowgirls improve to 8-1 overall on the early season, and 3-1 in the Eastern A Conference. 

The junior varsity Cowgirls struggled against Sidney’s JV squad, taking a hard 10-0 loss. 

Freshman Elise Anderson had the mound for the Cowgirls, but the Cowgirls’ seven strikeouts at bat didn’t help her cause, and the team was held to just three hits.  

Freshman Ali McAuliffe recorded an infield hit, freshman Anna Morris a single, and sophomore Amber Taylor a single with two stolen bases. Taylor’s swipe of third base was the closest the Cowgirls came to scoring. 

Sophomore Raqi McAuliffe reached base twice, once on a walk and another on a catching error by the Sidney first baseman. Behind the plate, she showcased her fearlessness in executing the pickoff play, catching one runner too far off third base and making multiple attempts at third and first. 

Amber Taylor relieved Anderson in the fourth inning, allowing two Sidney runs.