PREP SOFTBALL: Otterness hits season-high in strikeouts in shutout of HLWW

WATERTOWN – It was safe to say Abby Otterness had things working for the Watertown-Mayer softball team. The junior ace pitcher for the Royals tallied a new season-high 14 strikeouts as part of her impressive 2-0 shutout of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Monday.

“When she’s on, she’s on,” Royals coach Bethany Loether said. “I’d argue she’s one of the best pitchers in our conference. She’s just getting better and better as the season goes on.”

After striking out the side in order to start the game, Otterness got some support from her teammates in their first at-bat of the game. Jada Kostmatka led off the inning with a single. With two outs, Otterness helped herself out with an RBI single to put the Royals up 1-0.

W-M would add on an insurance run in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI single from Payton Hecksel. That two-run cushion was more than enough with Otterness in control in the circle.

“We have a good team,” Loether said. “It’s just a matter of finding that confidence in ourselves. I think that’s starting to come out a little bit in the last few games. We know we can do it and win games.”

Otterness finished the game allowing just two hits and one walk. Her season-high 14 strikeouts marked the fourth time this season she’s struck out 10 or more in a game. For the year, Otterness has an ERA of 1.78 in 70 innings of work.

It was the second dominant game for Otterness against HLWW. Earlier in the year, she completed a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 win for the Royals.

With the win, W-M improved to 10-7 on the year and has won three straight. With just two games left in the regular season, the Royals are looking to keep their momentum rolling heading into the postseason.

“Right now, our focus is on sections,” Loether said. “Our goal is to play clean ball and get some momentum heading into the playoffs.”

The Royals close out the regular season with a doubleheader against Litchfield. Following that, W-M will have three days of practice to gear up for what they hope will be a deep postseason run.

“We have three days of practice coming up and we haven’t had practice in like two weeks,” Loether said. “ I’m looking forward to just being able to revamp and refocus before heading into the postseason. Our goal is to win every inning right now. That’s our focus and mentality. We want to keep that pressure on. Even though we didn’t quite get them across today, we had people in scoring position pretty much every inning. I’m OK with that because we’re progressing.”

For HLWW, they dropped to 4-14 on the season. The Lakers will close out the season with three home games against Dassel-Cokato, Rockford, and Norwood Young America.

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Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

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