116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Jess Heick's plan was to spend her Saturday afternoon and evening doing what most college students do in May.
"I have a couple of finals I need to get finished up," she said. "I'll probably just be doing homework the rest of the day."
Heick had the time available because of her work earlier in the day on the softball field. The Solon High School graduate had two hits and drove in three runs as No. 4 seed Mount Mercy advanced to the Heart of America Conference tournament title game with a convincing 10-4 win over No. 3 seed Baker in the winner's bracket final at Busse Field.
The Mustangs (32-13) will meet Grand View (41-10) Sunday at noon. Grand View defeated Baker 8-3 in the loser's bracket final. The Vikings would have to defeat the Mustangs twice to claim the title.
Mount Mercy had its struggles to close the regular season, losing four of its final five. Heick said the reason for the Mustangs' resurgence was very simple.
"These past couple of games we've become so close as a team," she said. "Everybody has each other's backs. We know what we can do, it was just a matter of us getting out there and doing it."
Mount Mercy Coach Larry Yoder knew the end of the regular season was just a small part of what has been a successful year.
"We've been a good team all year long," he said. "We believed we could do this, but it has been a grind of a college season playing over 50 games, playing every weekend. We got a little time off during the week and then the energy of the tournament kicks in and it's like new life."
The Mustang bats have come to life as the tournament has progressed. After getting just two hits in the opening-round 2-0 win over Benedictine, Mount Mercy rapped out 10 hits in a 7-0 win over William Penn on Friday and had 15 more against Baker.
"It's a game of emotion and once you get that thing going in the right direction, everybody seems to catch on," Yoder said. "You can look all the way through the lineup and we had 15 hits and a bunch of them were big hits from a lot of different people."
However, none of the hits were bigger than Heick's two. After falling behind 3-1 after three, the first two Mustang batters were retired. Natalie Tecklenburg doubled to left center and Morgan Braughton reached on an infield single. Payton Bruner's RBI single cut the lead to 3-2. A walk to Samantha Lee loaded the bases for Heick.
"I had been struggling hitting-wise in this tournament so far," Heick said. "Coach O (Mustangs pitching coach John Olachnovitch) always tells me 'You're not you if you're not smiling' so I went up there and Payton told me the ball was going to be inside and I just turned on it."
Heick drove the ball just past the second baseman, bringing home Braughton and Bruner with the tying and go-ahead runs.
Mount Mercy put the game away with a six-run sixth. Heick's double down the third-base line was one of six Mustang hits in the inning.
Jayna Witzany continued her brilliance in the circle for Mount Mercy. After Baker went up 3-1 in the third, she set down the next 11 hitters before giving up two hits and a run in the seventh. Witzany is 3-0 with a 0.67 earned run average in Mount Mercy's three tournament wins.