The Ankeny Centennial softball team is embracing its tough early-season schedule.
The Jaguars played three more ranked opponents at the ADM Invitational on Friday and Saturday. They went 2-2 at the tournament and are now 5-7 on the season with three one-run losses while playing nine ranked teams in their first 12 games.
“We love our schedule,” said Centennial coach Randy Schneider. “It’s making us better every day and is in direct correlation to the improvement of Iowa high school softball. I’m optimistic and certainly proud of the kids’ effort thus far.”
Centennial closed out the tournament on Saturday with a 4-1 win over ADM, the No. 4 team in Class 4A. Haley Gatica (5-3) tossed a five-hitter and allowed just one walk while recording nine strikeouts.
“It was her finest game of the year,” Schneider said of Gatica. “And offensively, we did a great job advancing bases and aggressively scored four runs to come away with a culture-building win.”
Chloe Olson drove in two runs for the Jaguars, while Lauren Birt went 2-for-4 and scored a pair of runs. Franie Burnett went 1-for-1 with two walks and stole three bases.
Earlier on Saturday, Centennial dropped a 5-3 decision to Roland-Story, the No. 9 team in Class 3A. Karlie Kaiser (0-1) was the losing pitcher.
Carleigh Kray went 1-for-1 and had two RBIs. Cassi Garland went 2-for-3 and scored a run, while Ella Schulz had a double for the team’s only extra-base hit.
“On Saturday we knew it would be tough, facing two of the top pitchers in the state,” Schneider said. “It’s something we feel very fortunate about. We walked away from the day with close to 28 runners on base in 14 innings but came up short against a well-coached Roland-Story team.”
Centennial opened the tournament on Friday with a 4-3 loss to Ballard (Huxley), which scored the winning run off Gatica with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Gatica, who was the Jaguars’ third pitcher, had a double and an RBI in the loss.
Taylor Runchey went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Taryn Lindaman and Kinleigh Quam each had a double.
The Jaguars then rebounded to defeat Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 11-0, in five innings. Sergeant Bluff-Luton is ranked No. 11 in Class 4A.
Olson went 2-for-3 with a double, a homer and three RBIs. It was her first home run of the season.
Runchey went 2-for-3 and knocked in two runs. Anna Christiansen also went 2-for-3 and had one RBI, while Garland and Schulz each doubled and drove in a run.
Gatica earned the win. She combined with Kayla Stone on a nine-hit shutout.
“Overall, we played well facing four state tournament teams,” Schneider said. “I felt we came to the tournament sluggish after a long night at Ankeny (on Thursday) and the kids got going a bit late versus a very competitive Ballard team. But they picked it up in the afternoon and did a great job against Sergeant Bluff putting up 11 runs.”
The Jaguars will return to CIML Central Conference play on Monday, hosting a doubleheader against Ames.