116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FORT DODGE — There are three outs per half-inning in the game of softball, and that was a good thing for Mount Vernon on Tuesday.
The second-ranked Mustangs (35-4) scored all seven of their runs with two outs in a 7-0 Class 3A state softball quarterfinal win over Estherville-Lincoln Central (23-9) at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
That total included three-run innings in the first and fourth.
“One of the things that they love to do is score with two outs, so that’s something we strive to do,” Mount Vernon Coach Robin Brand said. “They just know that whoever’s up at the plate can bring the runners on the bases in. They’ve got confidence in themselves and in each other. Really proud of their effort.”
Mount Vernon pitcher Jenna Sprague looked eager for that lineup to get to work – and reminded herself of the whole three-out thing early.
After striking out ELC’s No. 3 hitter with one on and one out in the top of the first, she sprinted out of the circle toward the dugout before realizing there was one out still to get.
Sprague laughed with her teammates, then settled back in and got the cleanup hitter swinging, the second of her 13 strikeouts. She allowed just three hits, all singles, and one walk.
“A lot of my pitches work well in good, tight games and I really rely on them, but also thinking that my defense will have my back helps,” Sprague said.
Sprague helped start the first MV two-out rally, following Lauren Ryan’s two-out single with a base hit of her own in the bottom of the first. Ryan scored on Ashlyn Steen’s bases-loaded walk and Addison Gookin drove in two with a single to give Mount Vernon an early 3-0 lead.
“It was huge,” Sprague said. “Getting ahead early really helps my confidence and working toward shutting out the other team.”
Maia Bentley added an RBI triple in the second, then her fly to left in the fourth resulted in an error that got her to third again and scored two. She crossed the plate when the next batter, Ryan, singled up the middle.
Of course, all of that damage was done with two outs.
“That’s when we really get rolling,” Sprgaue said, “knowing that we need to make something happen.”
It was the fourth straight postseason shutout for the Mustangs (35-4), who advance to face No. 3 Williamsburg in a semifinal game at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The key for the Mustangs after splitting a pair with the Raiders in the regular season?
“Discipline,” Brand said. “Just staying confident.”