HARLAN – Never underestimate the value of your pinch players.

Jada Jensen and Ava Rush will tell you how much they had a role in giving huge support to one of the best pitching performances by someone in Atlantic gold and black.

Pinch-hitting for Maleana Woodward in the top of the seventh inning with one out, Jensen knocked a single to right field. That sent home Ava Rush, the speedy freshman who courtesy ran for Olivia Engler.

That broke a 1-1 tie and played the deciding role in a 2-1 victory over Harlan in a battle for the Hawkeye Ten Conference lead.

Now 7-0 in the conference, the Trojans have a one-game lead over the Cyclones and are two ahead of Creston and Glenwood.

The game-winning hit was definitely one to savor for Trojan fans, and certainly Rush and Jensen.

“Once you get up there you get more confident, and you have everyone cheering you on. It’s just a good time,” said Jensen, who admits she doesn’t get to pinch hit a lot. “Once I got on it was awesome. The whole dugout went crazy.”

“Just when she hit it, it was the best feeling,” added Rush. “I couldn’t have done it without Jada. It was, ‘Oh yes that’s good.’ It was so great and I was so happy.”

It was enough to hold up Olivia Engler’s one-hit gem.

Striking out 10 on the evening, the junior ace pitcher of the Trojan pitching staff yielded just a second-inning lead-off home run by the Cyclones’ Emily Brouse. That ended up being the only baserunner of the evening for the hosts, as Engler kept them guessing all night long.

And the defense was strong behind her.

“I pitched pretty well tonight, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” said Engler, who also went 3-for-4 on the night. “Having Lauren Nicholas (second baseman) catching all those pop flies and Maddie Botos had some really good catches (in left field) ... I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I don’t know if it was my best night, but my good defense just helped me out on the mound,” she continued. “I just knew Tiana (Kasperbauer) and Emily (Brouse) are pretty good pitchers and hard to hit off of, so I knew I had to go in with a positive mindset that I was going to get the win.”

Botos added two hits of Atlantic’s seven on the night. Alyssa Derby had the other RBI, coming in the top of the third to tie the game.

The Trojans (9-1 overall) travel tonight to Red Oak. Coach Terry Hinzmann, happy with his team’s performance, said his team will have to be focused.

For one night, it was one to celebrate.

So, then, how does being the Hawkeye Ten Conference leaders feel?

“Feels pretty darn good,” said Rush.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.