WATERLOO – East Marshall has had its eye set on a return to the state tournament since a frustrating finish a year ago.
One game removed from getting back to Fort Dodge, the Mustangs had to regroup and refocus to ensure a chance at redeeming themselves on the big stage.
Unloading seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, second-ranked East Marshall broke away for an 11-4 victory over New Hampton Monday in the Class 3A Region 4 softball final at The Wahawk Softball Facility.
The Mustangs (32-3) sent 11 batters to the plate in their last at-bat to break open a 4-all tie and earn their third straight trip to the Iowa Girls State Softball Tournament at Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
East Marshall earned the top seed and rides a 27-game win streak into its opening round matchup with Mid-Prairie on July 21 at 11 a.m.
Though first the Mustangs had to rally back after surrendering a four-run lead. East Marshall used four hits, an error, two walks and a hit batsman to put away the scrappy Chickasaws (15-20).
“We knew what was at stake and we knew that we were kind of playing flat the whole game,” Mustang catcher Ashley Allen said. “We came out (in the sixth inning) and I think we wanted it more than they did. We came out and showed it. We saw our pitch and hit it.”
Kylee Hoskey and Haley Fye each singled before Madisen Hinegardner drove in the go-ahead run on her groundout. Maci Fritz came across on a passed ball before Amendt reach on an error to bring in another run. Haley Long drew a bases loaded walk and Hoskey was hit by a pitch in her second at-bat of the frame to stretch the gap to 9-4. Maci Fritz tacked on a two-run single to center field to cap the Mustangs’ flurry.
“Give the girls credit, we were rolling at 4-0 and (New Hampton) tied it,” Mustangs coach Jary Hoskey said. “I told the girls ‘What are we made of?’ and they came back and scored seven runs. … We started hitting our pitch and that’s when we’re a good hitting team, when we’re looking for our pitch to drive.”
Allen’s RBI double to right spotted the Mustangs a one-run advantage in the first and Mariah Fritz drove in another run on a single toward third in the second. Hoskey plated courtesy runner Shae Fetters with a groundout in the third and Maci Frtiz followed with a run-scoring single up the middle to give East Marshall a 4-0 lead before the Chickasaws clawed back in the fourth.
Allie Geerts reached on an error – the Mustangs’ third of the game – and Karly Fitzgerald hit a hard single to short before Abby Gossling smacked a two-run double off the left field fence. Another error allowed Jessie Crooks to reach second and score Gossling to trim the deficit to one.
Crooks retired the next six Mustangs in order before Nicole Mulford strung a double to left plating Abby Gossling for the tying run in the top of the sixth.
Following East Marshall’s big inning, the Chickasaws opened the seventh with two walks before Taylor Fricke turned a double play on a lineout at short and stepped on second for the final out.
Mariah Fritz improved to 25-1 in the circle allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits with nine strikeouts and a pair of walks.
“If she gets ahead on you in, she’s hard to hit,” Chickasaw coach Jack Seelhammer said of Fritz.
“We told the girls to get set and if not the first pitch, you’re looking at the second pitch to try and drive the ball back up the middle.”
East Marshall returns to Fort Dodge looking for redemption after last year’s 0-3 outing.
“We went up last year and didn’t play the best that we could and we came home knowing that,” Allen said.
“This year we want it and we’ve been talking about it since the first day of practice. We know how bad we want it and how important the first game is to win.”
New Hampton put runners on second and third with one out in the fifth before Mariah Fritz retired the next two to escape the jam. New Hampton left seven runners on base, while East Marshall stranded five.