Houge, Spartans roll to semis

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Mikayla Houge of Collins-Maxwell connects for a single against LeMars Gehlen during a Class 1A quarterfinal game on Monday at Rogers Park. For more photos, visit CU at messengernews.net

Even without what she deemed her best stuff, Mikayla Houge was still downright nasty inside the pitcher’s circle for top-ranked and defending Class 1A state champion Collins-Maxwell Monday on Kruger Seeds Field.

A junior who has already committed to the University of Virginia, Houge gave up three hits and struck out 11 to lead the Spartans to a 4-0 victory over unranked LeMars Gehlen in the state quarterfinals.

Houge, who was the captain of the all-tournament team a season ago, has now pitched 32 consecutive scoreless innings at the state tournament, dating back to 2016.

Gehlen (21-10) put a runner at second base in the fifth inning and again in the seventh, but never seriously threatened to dent the scoreboard.

“I know the competition (at state) is a lot better and so I know I have to be a lot sharper with my stuff,” Houge said. “I usually pitch better in tougher games just because that’s where I want to be.

“I didn’t have my best stuff, but that’s why I have a team.”

Houge fanned five consecutive batters during one stretch of the second and third innings.

Collins-Maxwell (26-1 overall) generated seven hits, but failed time and time again to take advantage of scoring opportunities.

Gehlen pitcher Rylee Schnepf walked 10 batters and the Jays piled up five errors, but the Spartans helped them out by stranding 12 runners on base.

Single runs in the first and second innings gave the Spartans early breathing room, but they didn’t put the Jays away until the sixth inning when Hannah Caple laced a two-RBI single into left-center field. It plated Emma Kahler and courtesy runner Avery Fricke, who were both aboard following free passes.

“(At 2-0) you never know what’s going to happen, so getting those extra two runs were big,” said Caple, who is also a returning all-tournament team member and went 2-for-4.

Alexis Houge nearly single-handedly gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead in the first. She led off with a walk and promptly stole her 52nd base of the season. Gehlen’s first throwing error moved her to third, and she scored on an RBI sac bunt by Emma Kahler.

Ella Kahler joined Caple with two hits for Collins-Maxwell, which will face fourth-seeded Newell-Fonda (38-5) in Wednesday’s semifinal round at 11 a.m.

Ella Kahler roped a lead-off double in the fifth, but Schnepf buckled down and struck out the next three batters. She whiffed five in all.

Gehlen, at the state tournament for the first time since 2012, will tangle with Lynnville-Sully (26-9) in a consolation game this morning at 11 a.m.

Collins-Maxwell 4,

LeMars Gehlen 0

Gehlen 000 000 0 — 0 3 5

C-M 110 002 x — 4 7 0

Rylee Schnepf and Addison Weber. Mikayla Houge and Hannah Caple. W–M. Houge. L–Schnepf. Multiple hits–C-M: Caple, Ella Kahler. 2B–LG: Sydney Livermore; C-M: El. Kahler; RBI–C-M: Caple (2), Emma Kahler.