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CEDAR RAPIDS — Luther Coach Renae Hartl hobbled around in a walking boot fixed to her lower right leg.
It was a fluke injury in the dugout during the first of two nail-biters between her fifth-ranked Norse and No. 7 Coe.
Any pain might have been soothed with a doubleheader split between Iowa Conference powers Saturday at Clark Field. Coe snapped No. 5 Luther’s 16-game win streak with a 3-2 victory in the opener, but the Norse rebounded, 5-3, in the nightcap.
“When Luther plays Coe, I don’t think either coach is ever going to be disappointed with two great games,” Hartl said. “We could have come out with two wins. We could have come out with two losses. I think that was great college softball.”
Both games were up for grabs with the winning runs on base when the final out was the recorded.
“I was very happy with the way we played in the first game,” Meyer said. “We came back after we got down and won it in the sixth.
“I was proud of the way we battled in game two. We just left too many runners on base. We had some errors at inopportune times and you can’t do that against very good teams.”
In the opener, Madi Miller contributed a clutch sacrifice fly that scored Haley Jones with the winning run in the bottom of the sixth. Jones and Paige Wieland opened the frame with consecutive singles to set up Miller’s heroics.
When she had the chance to swing away, she knew her responsibility in a game with a slim margin for error.
“Coach said I might squeeze so that was also in the back of my mind for the next pitch,” said Miller, who had two hits in the nightcap and led Coe with three total hits. “Second pitch was right down the middle, so I knew I had to give a chance to my runners to score. Do it for the team.”
Coe trailed 2-0 in each game. The Norse plated two in the third, receiving a two-out RBI single from Bailey Victoria and scoring the next on a botched force out attempt.
The Kohawks answered in the bottom half. Maddy Ryan smacked a double to drive in Brianna Gardner from first. Ryan advanced to third on the throw home and scored when the catcher’s throw skipped into left field.
The key hit and sac fly complemented Maliah Fligg’s ability to stifle the Norse batters. Fligg (11-1) pitched out of jams in the first and limited damage in the third, besting Luther’s Samantha Bratland (11-2).
Fligg forced a groundout and fly out after the Norse moved the tying and go-ahead run into scoring position with one out left in the seventh.
“She just gets the job done,” Meyer said. “She’s not afraid to be in tough situations. She embraces them.”
Hartl suffered an injury to her calf during that game, cheering when Victoria made a diving grab and her throw beat Fligg to first, thwarting a bases loaded threat with the game tied, 2-2, in the fifth.
“They think I tore it,” Hartl said. “It will be OK. We got out of the inning. I jumped up and I tore it.”
Luther (23-3, 3-1 IIAC) turned the tables on Coe in the second game, breaking a 2-2 final at-bat and pitching out of trouble with tying run in scoring position.
The Norse scored three in the seventh, opening with singles from Addy Pender and Sammie Harris. Ashley Burrows, loaded the bases with a single off Fligg, who came in to relieve starter Alyssa Olson.
An error, a wild pitch and Anna Strien’s sacrifice fly brought in the winning runs.
Harris was 3-for-3 and finished with four hits. She added an RBI single in the second, scoring Megan Bonnett in the two-run second.
“She has to be one of the best outfielders in our conference,” Hartl said. “Her bat hasn’t necessarily been her strength, but her defense is fantastic. So, it was neat to have her offense be the spark for us. As a senior captain, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Annie Versnik (12-1) earned the win for Luther, but it was Bratland that picked up the save, getting the final three outs. The Kohawks put themselves for the come-from-behind sweep, loading the bases with one out and the heart of the lineup coming to the plate.
Bratland recorded a strikeout and then fielded the final grounder to end it.
“With the second game helps my confidence a little bit, but as a team, we really picked things up,” Bratland said. “We knew we needed to work a lot harder in order to pull off that win.”
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