Area Female Athlete: C-I's Kovatovich collecting Ks and Ws
It was a 10-day streak of firsts for the Crosby-Ironton Rangers.
From April 30 to Tuesday, May 8, C-I posted a 9-3 record that included wins over Mid-State Conference rivals Staples-Motley and Pequot Lakes. Those nine wins were more wins than C-I has had in any season in the 2000s.
One reason is the pitching of senior Mattie Kovatovich.
"It's kind of indescribable in a way," Kovatovich said. "My past two years on varsity, I've been disappointed. It seemed like we worked so hard, but nothing ever paid off. Now this year, finally, we're finally winning and being successful and working really well as a team and everything.
"Being able to get that satisfaction of our hard work paying off is truly amazing and it's something that makes me and the other girls feel better as people and as a team."
Last week started with a 5-3 victory over Isle April 30. Kovatovich struck out three and allowed three runs on four hits and one walk. She also walked and scored a run in the victory.
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- Year: Senior
- School: Crosby-Ironton
- Sport: Softball
- Position: Pitcher
- Highlights: Pitched Crosby-Ironton to eight wins last week
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She pitched a 15-8 victory over McGregor that same day. She struck out six over five innings. At the plate, the No. 9 hitter went 2-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
After a doubleheader sweep by Detroit Lakes May 1, C-I rebounded with a conference sweep over Staples-Motley May 3. In a 17-0 Game One win, Kovatovich struck out two, walked none and scattered three hits over four innings for the shutout. She also drove in a run.
"She basically throws a fastball and two different versions of a changeup," C-I head coach Brad Hollenhorst said. "Three years into this she's starting to take really good advice and working on location. She knows how to throw low and away and she can hit spots. Even not being overpowering, she's very effective at getting the pop-up and ground ball. The ability to pitch low and away has really been the catalyst for her success this season. Her control is quite good right now."
In Game Two, a 13-7 victory, Kovatovich gave up one earned run on eight hits and two walks. She struck out one.
A day later, Kovatovich was back on the mound for a 14-12 victory over Rush City. She struck out nine and walked two. She finished 1-3 with three runs and an RBI to help her cause.
"I've realized that I'm not a strikeout pitcher," Kovatovich said. "I'm not super fast or anything like that. What I wanted to focus on instead of speed was location and just being smart with the ball. I've worked on getting ahead in the count and when I am, knowing where to put it and at what speed to throw it. I've really focused on being smart instead of being fast."
Kovatovich and C-I continued the momentum at the Hill City Tournament May 5. She shut out Northland for a 12-0 Game One victory. She struck out six, walked one and allowed just four hits.
She pitched five innings in a 13-3 victory over Hill City in the semifinals. Kovatovich struck out two and allowed two earned runs on three hits and five walks.
"The baseball side of me is still getting used to fast-pitch pitchers being able to throw as much as they can," Hollenhorst said. "I think she's put a lot of time in the weight room to build some arm strength, especially that rotator cuff. She's honest with me through all of it and I was pleased she was able to throw as many innings as she did last week.
"For both her and I, it's just been gratifying to see this group of seniors have a good season and she's been at the forefront of all of it. This is my first group of kids that came in as freshmen and it's good to see them work hard for four years and it's starting to pay off."
The win that meant the most, however, came Tuesday. Kovatovich struck out five, walked one and allowed two earned runs on seven hits over six innings to pitch the Rangers to a 15-5 victory over the perennial powerhouse Pequot Lakes.
"I think a lot us, especially in previous years, we always go into games thinking we're going to end up losing," Kovatovich said. "This year, a lot of that has changed. With senior leadership and leadership from younger girls on the team who have experience, I think our confidence as a team and an entire program has really grown a lot. I think that has helped us win games and beat these teams who people think we're not going to beat."
Kovatovich has pitched 52 innings and has struck out 38 compared to 19 walks this year. She's hit one batter and allowed 46 runs, 33 earned, on 59 hits leading to an 8-1 record. She has a 4.442 ERA mainly due to two games early in the season.
By comparison, Kovatovich went 2-7 last year with 32 strikeouts, 54 walks and 141 hits allowed with an 8.881 ERA. As a sophomore, she finished with a 3-10 record.
"When the season started, we were definitely looking at a two- to three-person rotation, to be honest," Hollenhorst said. "Through the preseason, she was looking good inside, but so were a few others. The composure that she's shown just from her junior year to her senior year is quite an adjustment. She's more level-headed. More confident that even if she walks somebody or gives up a hit or a teammate makes an error that she can respond and the team will respond. That kind of confidence in the circle has really led to the confidence of the whole team."
Other notable performances
Golf: Bailey Knoblauch, Pillager, was individual medalist at a Quad County Conference meet at Cragun's Legacy Courses.
Abby Koel, Pillager, was medalist at a Quad County Conference meet at Thumper Pond.
Softball: Lindsey Tulenchik, Pine River-Backus, finished 6-7 with four RBIs in a sweep of Northland.
Ella Kalusche, Pierz, finished 2-2 with two runs, a triple and three RBIs against Holdingford.
Danielle Burgoyne, Pine River-Backus, finished with a home run, double, triple and five RBIs in two wins over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and was 3-5 with three doubles in a victory over Sebeka.
Karlie Trottier, Pequot Lakes, finished 3-5 with two doubles and seven RBIs in a sweep of Aitkin.
Track and Field: Beth-el Algarin, Pierz, won the shot put with a school record effort and the discus at the John Reimer Classic.
Adelaide Hubbard, Pequot Lakes, won the 100-meter hurdles and triple jump at the Browne Invite.
Desera Engholm, Pequot Lakes, won the shot up and discus at the Browne Invite.