Playing top-notch competition makes teams better. The Western Dubuque softball team knows that first-hand after playing a pair of Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheaders last week before meeting a pair of top-ranked teams at the Hawkeye Classic in Iowa City over the weekend.

The Bobcats took a twin bill at Waterloo East, May 29, winning the opener 12-3 on the strength of 14 hits, including home runs by Ella Link and Jacie Walters. Sydney Kennedy had a solid outing in the circle, scattering four hits in 5 ⅓ innings before freshman Meredith Hoerner finished the game.

After East had taken a 1-0 lead in the third, the Bobcats exploded for six runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to lead 8-1. After the Trojans made it a bit more interesting with two runs in the sixth, Western Dubuque scored four more in the seventh and cruised to the win.

Eight Bobcats had hits in the game. Amy Kane was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Kluesner 2-for-3, Hallie Wilgenbusch 2-for-3 with one RBI, Link 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Walters and Sara Horsfield 2-for-4 with one RBI, Kennedy and Jenna Hoefler 1-for-4 with one RBI.

Runs were a bit harder to come by in the second game, but the Bobcats didn’t need many as sophomore Wilgenbusch fired a complete game two-hitter — striking out five without a walk — to win 3-0.

Hoefler was the start offensively, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Horsfield, Emma Gile and Walters all reached base with singles.

“We saw some great things offensively — aggressive baserunning, great two-strike hitting and adjustments in the box,” said Western Dubuque coach Rachael Neal. “All three of our pitchers threw well and we had base hits from everyone in the lineup.”

Always tough Linn-Mar came to Farley the next night and took a pair of close victories home, winning the opener 4-2 and taking an 11-8 slugfest in the nightcap.

Linn-Mar jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning of game one, and extended that to 3-0 in the third before the Bobcats got back in it with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Wilgenbusch doubled and scored on a single by Kennedy before another double — this one by Horsfield — led to an RBI single by Kane to make it 3-2.

The Lions tacked on one more in the fifth to end the scoring and earn the 4-2 win. The Bobcats had nine hits that produced only two runs, with Kane going 2-for-3 with one RBI, Hoefler and Wilgenbusch 2-for-3, Horsfield and Walters 1-for-3 and Kennedy 1-for-4 with one RBI.

Kennedy went the distance, allowing four runs on six hits while striking out 11.

Game two had plenty of fireworks, as Linn-Mar’s Charli Patton’s three-run blast in the first put the Lions on top, but Western Dubuque’s Link went deep to dead center for a two-run homer of her own to make it 3-2.

After Linn-Mar scored three more in the second, the Bobcats again answered, scoring three of their own. After Hoefler, Kluesner — who was replaced by courtesy runner Claire Horsfield — and Sara Horsfield drew consecutive walks, a single by Walters scored two runs and Kennedy plated a third on a Lion infield error, making the Linn-Mar lead 6-5. Gile tied things up in the fourth with a solo home run to right before Sara Horsfield and Kennedy scored to put the Bobcats up 8-6.

That lead was short-lived as Linn-Mar scored three runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh to grab the 11-8 victory.

“We had great offensive production, but some defensive and baserunning miscues hurt us in two close games,” said Neal.

Link was 1-for-2 with two RBIs, Gile 1-for-3 with one RBI, Sara Horsfield 2-for-4 with three runs scored. Walters 1-for-4 with two RBIs, Kane 1-for-3 with one RBI,Kennedy 1-for-5 with one RBI and Wilgenbush had one RBI.

Wilgenbusch threw 2 ⅓ innings allowing six runs on eight hits before giving way to Hoerner who went four innings and allowed four runs on five hits. Kennedy got the final two outs and allowed one run on one hit.

The University of Iowa Softball Complex was the place to be over the weekend as plenty of talent hit the field at the Varsity Classic, May 31 and June 1. The Bobcats caught everyone’s attention with a trio of impressive performances — capped by a 4-3 win over Class 2A top-ranked Durant on day two of the tournament.

Durant took a 2-0 lead in the third, but the Bobcats squared things up in the fourth when Hoefler doubled and scored on a Gile single for the first run and Gile was plated by Walters to make it 2-2.

In the fifth, Western Dubuque took the lead when Kennedy singled and was bunted ahead by Kane before Hoefler again came up big with an RBI single. After Durant knotted things up in the bottom of the sixth, Kane scored from second with the international tie-breaker in effect when Hoefler singled her home with the game winner.

Offensively, Hoefler was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Kennedy 3-for-4, Gile and Walters 1-for-3 with one RBI, Claire Horsfield 1-for-2 and Kaci Wolf 1-for-4.

Kennedy went the distance in the circle, allowing three runs on two hits and striking out eight.

“Sydney did a tremendous job in keeping some of the top hitters in the state guessing,” Neal said. “Offensively, our team did a great job of executing on offense — stealing bases and hitting in runners when we needed to.”

Nearly as impressive as the win over Durant was a first day performance that saw the Bobcats drop a 2-0 verdict to Class 4A top-ranked and defending state champion Davenport Assumption.

Kennedy was in fine form and limited Assumption to two runs on three hits, but the Western Dubuque offense was limited to only three hits — singles by Link, Wolf and Kane.

“Sydney pitched very well giving up only three hits to the defending state champs,” said Neal. “Offensively, we put runners on but could not move them in.”

The Bobcats’ second game of the opening day in Iowa City resulted in a 7-2 win over Davenport West, as Hoerner had a complete game five-hitter to get the win.

“Meredith had great composure and got her first varsity win,” said Neal.

Offensively, Sara Horsfield had a big game, going 4-for-4 with one RBI. Kennedy was 2-for-2 with one RBI, Wilgenbusch 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Gile 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Hoefler 1-for-3.