CEDAR RAPIDS — Luther Coach Renae Hartl has told her players hitting is contagious.
At first, the Norse seemed immune, but it didn’t take too long until they developed a fever at the plate that spread to almost the entire lineup.
All but one starter had a least one hit and 17th-ranked Luther tallied 22 total, sweeping No. 8 Coe, 8-4 and 11-1 in five innings, in an American Rivers Conference softball doubleheader Tuesday at Clark Field.
Senior Addy Pender had four hits, including two home runs, and seven RBIs to pace the league-leading Norse (27-4, 9-1 A-R-C).
“It was awesome,” Pender said. “I think everybody had a great day at the plate. We have to keep it going and be consistent with it.”
Coe (28-7, 8-4) was in control early, building a 4-0 lead on Taylor Huber’s three-run homer and Nicki Wood’s RBI single in the bottom of the first. Kohawk ace Alyssa Olson stifled batters, retiring the first seven.
Luther continued to battle and remained confident in getting back in the game.
“The energy stayed up the whole time,” Pender said. “We knew we could do it. All we had to do is chip away and go one at a time.”
The Norse started cutting into the lead in the third. Sierra Freeland provided a spark with the first of three Luther solo home runs in the opener. Not much of a power hitter, Freeland has hit her first two college home runs in a little more than a week.
“When someone like 5-foot-2 Sierra Freeland hits a home run it also teaches the whole team that timing is everything,” Hartl said. “She is very strong and a very good hitter, but if you can get your timing down you can hit a home run.”
Blake Banowetz and Pender added homers in the fourth, pulling Luther within a run. Two innings later, the Norse erupted for five runs, including Pender’s RBI double that tied the game. The Norse tallied five straight hits in the frame, including Elsa Skeie’s RBI single.
“I think there is a momentum to hitting,” Hartl said. “There is a rhythm to hitting. If you can get on that train, I think anybody can do it. I also think there is a belief and a game plan.
“I think our hitters were very prepared.”
After the rough opening inning, Bratland settled down and shut Coe out the rest of the way. She stranded runners in each of the last five innings.
“She’s outstanding,” Hartl said of Bratland. “She came off the field and said pick me up. I don’t think there are a lot of pitchers, who would come in and say that. Hats off to her to make sure her team knew she could do better and would do better for them.”
She was helped by a few running errors and the defense added a pair of double plays to help Bratland and Kendra Cooper, who gave up one run on four hits in the nightcap.
Pender provided some timely hitting and power for the Norse. She had two more hits in the nightcap, including a grand slam for a 7-0 lead in the second. She said she doesn’t think she’s had a better hitting performance and this one felt pretty good.
“I was just waiting to hit my pitch,” Pender said. “We went in with a game plan of hitting what we can and we knew they were two really good pitchers. All we had to do is wait for the one we saw and hit it well.”
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