NICL West’s best headed to state: Class 3A No. 4 East Marshall going back-to-back
STATE CENTER – As Jary Hoskey completed his final postgame interview, a surprise awaited the East Marshall softball head coach.
Doused from behind with a water jug hoisted by a couple of his players, it was one of the few times Hoskey – or any of his squad – was caught off guard Monday night.
Matching small-ball with a pair of home runs and solid pitching, the fourth-ranked East Marshall softball team kept PCM on its toes with its most complete performance of the postseason yet in a 7-2 victory at Class 3A Region 7 Final.
Class 3A leader Katie Roseland tallied her 14th homer of the year with a two-run shot in the first before Taylor Fricke added a solo shot in the fifth. East Marshall also scored twice on suicide bunts in the third – catching PCM flat-footed in a battle between Mustangs.
“We mix it up a lot and do a lot of different things to keep teams on their toes and keep them guessing,” Roseland said of her team’s offensive versatility. “Our goal was to come here and play ‘loosey goosey’ as coach says, focus, know that we can do it and play our game.”
East Marshall (28-5) returns to the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge for the second year in a row and the fourth time in school history. East Marshall takes on Clarke (26-9) in the first round Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Utilizing its versatile blend of bunts, slap hitting and home runs, East Marshall kept PCM (21-15) off balance all night, with no time more apparent than a pair of suicide squeeze bunts to stretch their lead in the third.
“I was definitely surprised to see that,” PCM coach Malloree Grove said of the run-scoring bunts from Ashley Allen and Haley Long. “Me and my dad were outcoached on that one. We really didn’t expect the squeeze with the bases loaded – especially with them being great hitters in the past.”
Allen’s bunt plated Paige Miller, who reached first on a bunt single of her own, before Long laid down another to bring in pinch-runner Bobbi Amendt.
“We saw how far back they were,” Hoskey said. “Ashley and Haley are both excellent ballplayers and we had rabbits on the bases so we took advantage of that. Luckily we got the bunts down and got the two runs, which were huge.”
The third inning tallies came on the heels of an RBI single by Fricke, who drove in Mariah Fritz after she reached on an error. Roseland preceded the run with a walk to load the bases before Grove replaced eighth-grader Kayla Jennings with senior Payge Edwards in the circle.
Edwards forced the next two batters to pop out though the five-run advantage proved to be more than enough for East Marshall.
Abigail Gilson gave the visitors some life with a solo blast over the left field fence to open the fourth, though Fritz retired the next three batters in order.
“I just knew I had to shake Katie off if I didn’t like the pitch she called,” Fritz said of keeping her calm after the one-run blast. “I had confidence in her and my defense was there to back me up.”
Fritz gave the offense another lift with a double to open the bottom of the fourth, before a sacrifice bunt by Miller and an RBI groundout from Roseland pushed the margin back to five. Fricke followed with her sixth home run of the season to stretch the lead to 7-1.
PCM made another push in the top of the sixth when Gilson reached on a dropped third strike and Jennings found her way to first by an error. Molly Vignovich roped a single to right and Gilson reached home on East Marshall’s second error of the inning, before Fritz retired the next two batters.
A walk to Makenna Van Veen and a single from Kelsey Townsend started another threat in the seventh before Fricke snared a fly ball and fired to Long for the double play at second. Gilson grounded out on the next play sparking a race to the circle from the entire East Marshall team.
Fritz went the distance allowing one earned run on five hits, while fanning seven batters and walking three. Jennings took the loss allowing five runs (four earned) on three hits, while retiring one on strikes and walking a pair in two innings. Edwards added a five-hit effort, giving up two earned runs on five hits with a strikeout.
The PCM pitchers were just one of many staffs that have been stifled by East Marshall’s multi-faceted attack.
“We’re diversified,” Hoskey said. “We can lay the bunt down or we can slap, we can hit the long ball and get base hits. Give those young ladies credit. I didn’t throw one pitch or hit one ball. … Tonight we played both offense and defense like East Marshall can.”
The winner of Tuesday’s game advances to play the victor of New Hampton (27-9) vs. Mid-Prairie (30-10) in a semifinal July 18 at 3:30 p.m. East Marshall placed fifth at state in 2012 and is making its fourth trip overall. The rest of the field includes Estherville-Lincoln Central (20-10) vs. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (33-3) and Monticello (31-6) vs. Bondurant-Farrar (27-12). … Gilson’s homer in the fourth was her 10th of the season – setting a PCM school record. … The Mustangs defeated PCM 3-2 in their second game of the season May 23 in Le Grand.