Early struggles for young Lady Knights

The Union Lady Knights have had a rough go of it in the early portion of the 2012 season, but there are reasons for optimism. Despite currently occupying the second-to-last spot in the Iowa Cedar League East standings, the girls have a record of 3-4 as of Monday, and can make up ground in the division quickly.

In addition, the team is young this year, and has the ability to get hot in a hurry, a characteristic that young teams can use both to their advantage and their downfall. The same energy that can catapult a young team like the Lady Knights to winning streaks can also allow them to fall into slumps just as fast.

The two seniors of this year’s team, Brittany Appleton and Sara Jesse, have been an integral part of helping the other players along in their development. Jesse has been playing a solid first base this season, and Appleton has helped form a capable double-play duo at second, coupled with junior shortstop Peyton Bockholt.

After dropping the opening game of the season to area rival North Tama, the girls gutted out an impressive 11-10 win at the expense of Grundy Center on May 25. Junior Sam Barz struggled to find her control on the mound, giving up six earned runs in six innings of work and allowing six walks.

Offensively, her teammates helped her out, with sophomore center fielder Raini Hilmer leading the way with a pair of RBI on three hits and a stolen base. Bockholy also contributed with two RBI of her own. A total of six players had a multi-hit game.

The problem for the Lady Knights in this still young 2012 season has been keeping their winning ways going, and they found that out the hard way with a 10-0 beatdown at the hands of Benton on May 30. Hilmer and Sam Barz were the only girls to record hits in the contest, with Barz having another rough day on the mound.

Just as fast as they fell, the girls picked themselves back up for a 13-6 win over Valley Community (Elgin) the following day. Barz finally found her control, striking out seven against just three walks, and gave up just two earned runs.

Freshman third baseman Kaylee Sherwood recorded two RBI and scored a run on two hits. Bockholt lit up the basepaths with two important steals that got her in scoring position. She scored three of the Knights’ 13 runs.

The following three games were part of the West Union tournament as well, where the girls bookended their two losses – 13-3 and 10-0 against North Fayette and Stagmont, respectively – with a 5-1 win over Edgewood-Colesburg.

Barz again pitched well, striking out three in seven innings of work, allowing no earned runs on the day. Sara Jesse drove in two runs, providing the offensive output she had been lacking as the team’s cleanup hitter up to that point. Catcher Lauren Barz also had two key hits in the game.

The Lady Knights will now look forward to taking advantage of their home crowd, as they host seven of eight games over the course of the next week. The next game is Monday, June 11, against Dike-New Hartford at 5:30 p.m. in La Porte City.