ROLAND - The East Marshall Mustangs blew open a 3-1 game with four runs in the top of the sixth inning and six more in the top of the seventh, cruising to a 12-2, Class 3A Region 3 finals victory over Iowa Falls-Alden at Bill Hennessy Field on Monday night and earning a berth in next week's state tournament.
The seventh-ranked Mustangs (30-5) recorded 11 of their 17 hits and capitalized on four errors by the Cadets in the final two innings to seal the win.
"I think their pitcher got a little tired but we hit the ball," said East Marshall head coach Jary Hoskey. "All year long we've been putting the ball in play, we've hit the ball hard and we've made our plays."
T-R PHOTO BY BRYAN STEWART
East Marshall batterymates Haley Long, left, and Katie Roseland celebrate the last out of the Mustangs’ 12-2 victory over Iowa Falls-Alden in Monday’s Class 3A Region 3 softball final in Roland. The seventh-ranked Mustangs march on to their first Iowa Girls’ State Softball Tournament berth since 1995 and will face Estherville-Lincoln Central in next Monday’s quarterfinals in Fort Dodge.
Senior second baseman Karly Long drove in four of the Mustangs' final nine runs, including a bases-clearing double in the seventh to bring East Marshall's lead to 12-2.
"I can't even believe it, I don't even know what to think," Karly Long said after a brief postgame celebration and meeting with her team.
While Karly took care of business at the plate, her sophomore sister Haley kept the Cadets hitters off the basepaths, surrendering only two runs on five hits while striking out six.
"I was pretty nervous but so excited," Haley Long said. "State is my dream. I just wanted it so bad."
Senior Abby Nuese put the first run on the board for the Mustangs as she hit a line drive off the top of and over the fence in left-center field for a solo home run on the second pitch of the top of the second. Freshman Taylor Fricke would score three batters later as freshman designated hitter Ashley Allen laced an RBI single to right field to give the Mustangs a 2-0 advantage.
East Marshall added another run to its lead in the third as sophomore pinch-runner Paige Flugge scored on an RBI double by junior catcher Katie Roseland.
The Cadets answered in the bottom half of the fourth as junior pitcher Lindsay Barnhart scored on an errant throw to third base. Barnhart would score again in the bottom of the sixth but the Mustangs' late offensive surge would be too much for the Cadets as all nine East Marshall batters went to the plate in each of the final two innings.
Karly Long attributed part of the team's 10-run outburst to the energy generated in the dugout during the Mustang at-bats.
"Our dugout is so loud and it's just so encouraging to have people behind you," Karly Long said.
Five Mustangs finished with multiple hits on the night led by Allen, Karly Long and Katie Roseland with three apiece. Fricke and seniors Alyssa and Chelsea Whitmore all finished with two hits apiece.
Barnhart did most of the damage at the plate for the Cadets registering three of the team's five hits and scoring both runs. Taylor Ackerman and Breanna Keane added singles for the Cadets, who defeated Garner-Hayfield and Forest City to reach the regional final.
Following a postgame gathering at Le Grand on Monday night, the team will be treated to a few days off as it gets ready for the state tournament next week.
"We'll work on some fundamental things that we need to work on, still try to keep our hitting sharp and other than that we'll give [the team] a couple days of rest," Hoskey said. "At 30-5, I'm going to let them have a break."
Hoskey credited his four seniors - Karly Long, Nuese, and Alyssa and Chelsea Whitmore - for leading the team all year long and bringing the Mustangs back to the state tournament for the first time since back-to-back trips in 1994-95.
"It's fun for the notoriety for the girls, it's fun for the notoriety for the coaches but this will get us more notoriety because some of these kids can play at the next level," Hoskey said. "Getting to the state tournament is a huge thing for us."
East Marshall will square off with fifth-ranked Estherville-Lincoln Central (27-6) in the opening round of Class 3A state tournament play next Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in Fort Dodge.