PELLA, Iowa — Freshman pitcher Kendra Bowe has shined for St. Thomas all year, even being named the MIAC playoff most valuable player this week. But in the first round of the NCAA regionals, she struggled as the team fell to Coe College 3-0 on Friday.
Bowe (22-2) gave up four hits, walked three batters and allowed three runs in six innings of work. Not terrible, but not good enough to beat a team like the Kohawks.
“I’d say if anything it was my struggle the most defensively, not really anyone else,” Bowe said. “The team played great defensively, except for me.”
Coach John Tschida said that the team got off to a “shaky” start, and it contributed to the lackluster performance.
“We didn’t hit our spots very well,” Tschida said. “Obviously against good teams you’ve got to start off strong. We faced a good team, a very good pitcher and we had a lot of opportunities to score.”
The Tommies will play Luther College at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.
The unranked Kohawks (35-11) got off to an early lead after freshman centerfielder Brianna Hull scored in the first inning. Hull hit a double, then was sacrificed to third by senior outfielder Ashley Hood. Hull scored on senior third baseman Amanda Hanson’s sacrifice bunt.
St. Thomas sophomore shortstop Jenna Hoffman started the bottom of the first inning with a double to right field. Junior second baseman Kimmy Hassel sacrificed Hoffman to third, but sophomore outfielder Tisa Phinney was unable to bring Hoffman home.
Hull scored again for the Kohawks in the third inning. She hit a single and advanced to second after a wild pitch that got by sophomore catcher Emily Gregory. Coe sophomore catcher Abby Flannagan hit a single to center to bring Hull home.
Bowe admitted that she was not on top of her game Friday and nerves may have been part of the reason.
“I am a freshman, and it’s regionals,” Bowe said. “Nerves take over no matter how hard you try to fight through that.”
The 11th-ranked Tommies (37-9) had a chance to come back in the third inning after junior right fielder Alyssa Dunrud singled to start things off. Hoffman once again got on base after hitting a line-drive single to right field. Senior Coe pitcher Ashlee Simon walked Gregory to load the bases, but sophomore first baseman Erin Mussett drilled a line-drive right to the second baseman to end the inning.
Tschida said that with better execution, the Tommies could have scored some runs.
“If you played that game again, we could easily have had five runs with those line drives,” Tschida said. “But they played well.”
Simon (21-5), who has been Coe’s workhorse all season, played particularly well for the Kohawks. The right-hander gave up seven hits but struck out four and allowed no runs. However, she once again found herself in a tight spot in the fourth inning.
Simon walked sophomore designated hitter Genny Duffy to start the inning, and freshman Annie Boyer came in as a pinch runner. Sophomore infielder Maggie Briesmeister sacrificed Boyer to second, but Boyer was caught stealing third.
“We made some boo-boos,” Tschida said. “We tried to create something, which was there, but we just didn’t execute. It’s really a matter of executing the defense and executing on offense.”
Sophomore pitcher Kristin Bigelbach replaced Bowe in the seventh inning and kept the Tommies within striking distance by allowing just one hit and no runs.
The Tommies tried to close the gap at the bottom of the seventh after junior Fantashia Gates-Colbert smashed a double to center field but were not able to capitalize.
Tschida said that despite the loss, the team will be ready for Saturday’s game against No.1-seed Luther College. The Norse defeated St. Scholastica 8-1 in their first game.
“One of the keys to coming back is to come back swinging, so we’ll be ready for tomorrow,” Tschida said.
“I know we can come back tomorrow,” Gregory said. “If we hit that well again, I think we’ll be fine the rest of the weekend.”
Bowe, who is expected to start against Luther, also kept a positive state of mind.
“You just have to learn from it and keep moving forward,” Bowe said. “ just relax and have fun is going to be the key to the rest of the weekend.”
Baihly Warfield can be reached at email@example.com.