Mustangs make their mark

LE GRAND Mariah Fritz sensed a big offensive inning from the beginning.

Jary Hoskey begged it of his team late.

True to their patient approach at the plate, the Class 3A No. 2 East Marshall softball team delivered right on time.

Tacking on four runs in the bottom of the sixth, the Mustangs broke open a 1-all tie for a 5-1 victory over Class 1A No. 4 AGWSR Thursday and secured the first outright North Iowa Cedar League West Division title for Hoskey.

Kylee Hoskey smacked a two-run double to left field and Maci Fritz added an RBI double before scoring off a mishandled pickoff throw at third as the Mustangs (29-3, 20-1) claimed their 24th straight win to dethrone the reigning NICL West champs.

“We just took our time and we were patient,” coach Hoskey said. “We told the girls not to swing at bad pitches and some of them did, but after that we settled in.”

Mariah Fritz scattered five hits over seven innings, struck out three and walked two to improve to 22-1 from the circle. The junior escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam in the first when Bobbi Amendt tracked down a hard hit ball to center field and fired into second to turn a double play.

The Cougars never created as big of a threat the rest of the way as Fritz limited AGWSR (22-6, 17-2) to just three hits over the last six frames.

“That’s as hard as I’ve ever seen Fritz throw,” AGWSR co-coach Scott O’Brien said. “I’ve never seen her throw that hard for a seven-inning game. She was tough tonight.”

East Marshall grabbed the NICL West crown a year after finishing second to AGWSR by a game. The two teams shared the title in 2012.

“I didn’t think after the girls that they lost last year that they could come back and get batter, but I really think they are better than they were last year,” O’Brien said of the Mustangs.

“They play hard, they play well and they swing the bats.”

East Marshall needed all of the above to get past Ashley Sicard and the Cougars.

Stopping his team before they entered the dugout to bat in the bottom of the sixth, Hoskey asked his squad for a run. They came back with four.

East Marshall tallied three of its six hits in the frame and also took advantage of a walk and an error.

Ashley Allen drew a leadoff base on balls and Taylor Fricke singled before Haley Long advanced both runners on a groundout. Kylee Hoskey’s rip plated pinch runner Shae Fetters and Fricke, before her own courtesy runner, Holly Roseland, came across on Maci Fritz’s drive.

The freshman stole third before enticing a pickoff throw with a long lead toward home, which allowed her to score the final run standing up as the ball bounced into left field.

“Right from the start, I felt like we were hitting and seeing Ashley (Sicard) really well,” Fritz said.

“I knew one of these innings it was just going to come out and we were all going to hit the ball well.”

Fricke and Maci Fritz each hit 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, while Hoskey hit 1-for-3 with 2 RBIs.

Mariah Fritz tallied the Mustangs’ other hit, a single in the first, to spark the team’s first run.

Bobbi Amendt added a sac bunt before Fricke plated pinch runner MacKienze Andrews with an RBI double.

Sicard brought in the Cougars’ lone run in the top of the first with a double to right center, which plated Madison Fryslie. Morgan Rose singled and Megan Marlette drew a walk to load the bases before Maci Fritz turned the double play.

“I always trust my teammates to make the plays,” Mariah Fritz said.

“They always have my back even when I don’t pitch as well.”

Sicard (21-5) allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits, while fanning four and walking one. The junior led AGWSR at the plate hitting 2-for-3, while Rose, Fryslie and Olivia Ingledue each added a single.

The Mustangs have their eye on a third straight trip to state though Hoskey wanted his team to enjoy what they accomplished Thursday.

“I’m proud of these girls, they’ve worked hard from the beginning,” Hoskey said.

“We’ll see what happens down the road, but 2014 conference champs they can’t take that away from us.”

Notebook

The teams split a doubleheader in Ackley on June 2. East Marshall won the first game 8-5 in eight innings and the Cougars took the nightcap 8-3.

The Mustangs will compete in the Carlisle Tournament Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m. AGWSR wraps up its regular season with a home doubleheader against West Marshall Monday.

Four of AGWSR’s losses have come against ranked foes including the Mustangs twice, and 4A’s No. 6 Ballard and No. 14 Waverly-Shell Rock.

The Mustangs three losses include the Cougars, 4A No. 6 Ballard and 3A No. 9 Bondurant-Farrar. AGWSR is also coming off a state berth in 2013.