Prep Softball

Independence softball is modest statistically, unbeaten on the field

Offensive balance, strong pitching and defense have propelled the 4A No. 2 Mustangs to 12-0

Independence Mustangs
Independence Mustangs

They won’t take your breath away on Quik Stats.

The Independence Mustangs don’t boast a lofty team batting average. They don’t have gaudy power numbers.

Here’s what else they don’t do:

• They don’t strike out much.

• They don’t commit many errors.

• They don’t walk many batters.

In other words, they don’t beat themselves.

“We do what we do, and we do it well,” Independence softball coach Heather Hupke said. “This group has a lot of grit. They’re very competitive.”

Heading into Wednesday’s Wamac Conference interdivisional doubleheader with Solon, the Class 4A second-ranked Mustangs (12-0) are one of 17 remaining unbeatens in the state.

It’s not as if they are steamrolling everything in sight. Three games have been decided by one run, and two have been won in extra innings.

“When it comes down to the last inning or a critical situation, the girls know what they need to do,” Hupke said. “At Center Point-Urbana (Monday), we scored a couple runs (in the top of the eighth), then we shut them down.”

Independence owns a modest team batting average of .325, and has just 21 extra-base hits, including four home runs. But the lineup is balanced, with seven regulars hitting .300 or better.

“We don’t rely on just three or four kids,” Hupke said. “One through 9, we can put the ball in play.”

That’s reflected by the strikeout numbers, just 2.4 per game.

Independence ranks in the top 10 in the state (all classes) in fielding percentage, at .974.

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Hupke’s daughter, Mackenzie — a junior — is the Mustangs’ No. 1 pitcher. She boasts an 8-0 record, a 0.76 ERA and a 75-to-8 strikeout-to-walk tally in 55 innings. She also leads the hitting attack with a .412 average and 13 RBIs.

“She’s competitive,” Heather said of Mackenzie. “She likes the challenge. She likes to be in those tough situations.”

Senior Lydia Butters is hitting .381 with 15 runs, 12 RBIs and six doubles.

Independence made a steady climb from 2015 to 2017, from 10-28 to 17-23 to 26-14.

And now, 12-0 and No. 2 in the state.

“We’re appreciative of the ranking and all that, but we’ve got to keep focusing on what we can do to get better,” Coach Hupke said. “We still need to get a little better at everything.”

Meanwhile, at Lisbon ...

Lisbon has matched Independence’s 12-0 start, and is the only other area unbeaten.

The Lions have scored in double figures in each of their last six games, including 11-0 and 20-5 in a sweep of Bellevue Marquette on Tuesday. That sent the Lions to 10-0 in the Tri-Rivers Conference heading into Thursday’s twinbill at home against Midland.

Freshman Chloe Woldruff is hitting .600 with 15 RBIs and 13 runs, and junior pitcher Skylar Sadler is 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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