Mount Vernon reaches 3A regional final

Softball: Defensive-minded Mustangs oust West Liberty, 8-4

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MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Mustangs aren’t filled with power hitters or power pitchers.

But, boy, can they play defense.

Fifth-ranked Mount Vernon spotted West Liberty a 3-0 lead, then came roaring back to triumph, 8-4, in a Class 3A regional-semifinal softball game Friday night at the Mount Vernon/Cornell softball facility.

“We have a lot of defensive practices, and our defense will keep us in it until our offense wins it,” shortstop Libby Ryan said.

The Mustangs (28-13) prevailed despite 14 hits by the Comets. Five of them came in the first inning, but Mount Vernon pitcher Lily Dahlstrom changed those ringing line drives to mostly pop-ups after that.

“Honestly, after (Hailey Daufeldt homered in the first inning to make it 3-0), I thought it was going to be a really good game,” Dahlstrom said. “I just knew I couldn’t throw the same pitches.”

Mount Vernon (28-13) will host No. 6 Northeast in a regional final at 7 p.m. Monday. The winner advances to the state tournament.

Maybe the Mustangs will beat the Rebels. Maybe they won’t. But it’s unlikely they’ll beat themselves.

West Liberty (20-14) out-hit Mount Vernon by a 14-8 count, but left 11 runners on base. Credit the Mustangs for damage control throughout.

“These kids ... if somebody scores against them, their first thought is ‘answer back, answer back,’” Mount Vernon Coach Robin Brand said. “We knew they were going to hit the ball. But we were able to come back, use our speed and put some pressure on them.”

The Comets committed three errors that led to three unearned runs. Mount Vernon, on the other hand, turned a nifty 6-4-3 double play. And center fielder Sydney Hauser tracked down a sixth-inning fly ball in the gap to save two runs. And Ryan, whose throwing error opened the bottom of the seventh, came back to retrieve a liner off third baseman Sammy Moss’ glove and get the runner at first to melt a potential rally.

Mount Vernon has hit only five home runs all season, and Dahlstrom averages a modest 3.5 strikeouts per game (she had one Friday). But this is a team with a wealth of defense, speed and smarts.

The Mustangs scored four runs in the top of the third inning for a 5-3 lead, then broke it open with three in the fifth.

West Liberty catcher Austin Crees, an eighth-grader, hit a solo homer, the first of her varsity career.

MOUNT VERNON 8, WEST LIBERTY 4

Class 3A Regional Semifinal, at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon 014 030 0 — 8 8 1

West Liberty 300 001 0 — 4 14 3

Lily Dahlstrom and Annie See. Kyleigh Becker and Austin Crees. W — Dahlstrom (21-8). L — Becker (11-7). HR — WL: Hailey Daufeldt (6), Crees (1).

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

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