Behind Coauette's gem, Pirates beat Ada-Borup, 3-1, for Bowman's first win
The Crookston softball team knew it was coming. They just weren't sure when.
But the Pirates knew what it would take for them to win their first game of the season.
Jenna Coauette pitched seven sterling innings and the Crookston bats gave her just enough support, enabling the Pirates to snap an 11-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over Ada-Borup Wednesday afternoon at Donnie Lauf Field.
The win was the first for Sunny Bowman, who took over as Crookston's head coach before the cancelled 2020 season.
"It feels amazing," Bowman said. "One would have thought that we had just won some huge tournament."
Instead, it was just a regular-season game. But it was the culmination of an array of positive signs that had built up over the last few weeks, according to Bowman.
Over their last five games coming in, the Pirates (1-11) had found a degree of consistency on offense. They averaged 10 base hits per game during that stretch, with at least eight hits in every game, while averaging 6.4 runs per contest.
On the other hand, big innings had killed them. They allowed two six-run frames against Red Lake Falls on May 4, while Roseau scored six and seven runs, respectively, in the sixth inning of both games of a May 6 doubleheader. East Polk, a team which had beaten Crookston 28-2 on April 17 in Greenbush, led just 7-5 going into the fifth inning on Tuesday, but scored eight runs in their half of the fifth to end the game via run-rule.
"We've had a big inning in every single game where things fall apart," Bowman said. "It's hard not to just kind of wait for that to happen."
On Wednesday, it never did. Coauette, who's pitched almost every inning for the Pirates this season, went out with two goals in mind: hammer the strike zone and rely on the fielders behind her.
Of Coauette's 123 pitches, 75 found the zone. She struck out five and allowed just three hits, working quickly and efficiently around every Ada-Borup threat.
"She threw strikes and she had confidence in her defense to back her up," Bowman said. "That's another thing that we've been talking about. ... Back her up, do what we can, and just stick together."
Added Coauette: "We've been working on a lot of our infield, because errors have kind of been hurting us. But over the last couple games, we've been cutting those down and it's been working for us."
Crookston got all the runs it would need in the first inning. Addie Fee, an eighth-grader who only recently was brought up to the varsity squad after a run of injuries, doubled to lead off the game, and senior Kenze Epema brought her home with a double. Amber Cymbaluk's RBI groundout then scored Epema to make it 2-0.
The Pirates scratched home an insurance run in the third inning when Reese Swanson, another recent call-up, scored Carley Knutson on an infield single.
Coauette, Fee and Swanson all cranked out two hits, while Knutson stole two bases and Epema and Swanson each swiped another.
"Our batting has been our successful area all year so far," Bowman said. "They just kept doing their job."
As the Pirates took the field before the seventh inning, they broke the huddle by exclaiming "Outs!" — as in, three more.
They didn't come easy. The Cougars (8-4) put two of their first three batters aboard, setting up the heart of their order with a chance to jump right back in the game.
But with one out, Coauette induced a hard liner right to Swanson, who caught it and without hesitating, fired the ball to Epema at second base. Epema's forceout was right on time.
"Right afterwards I said, 'See, that's what happens when we play like we know how,' " Bowman said. "... They put it all together today."
UP NEXT: Crookston will play its third game in as many days when it hosts Red Lake County Central (2-6) Thursday afternoon.
"The girls are coming in excited, especially after a win," Bowman said. "They're excited to have fun, they're excited to have gotten that monkey off their shoulder and they're excited to come back and play again. The girls just need to get some rest tonight, ice any soreness, and just come back and let the momentum keep us going."
Added Coauette: "Celebrate it right now, but when your head hits the pillow tonight it's a new day. Just be ready."
CROOKSTON 3, ADA-BORUP 1
- WP: Jenna Coauette (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K)
- LP: Ariel Johnson (6.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)
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