Prep Softball

Mount Vernon gets past Humboldt at state softball with defense and Nicole Sullivan's slam

Mustangs will take their shot at No. 1 Albia in the semifinals Wednesday

FORT DODGE — Some might call it their happy place. Or their nirvana.

Robin Brand calls it her “seven,” that place on her emotional dial from 1 to 10 that makes her most efficient.

And the Mount Vernon softball coach pleads with her team to find that same place, that “seven.”

“I just want them to be in that place in which they play best,” she said.

Defensively, the Mustangs found that zone Monday night. They made the routine plays. They made the extraordinary plays.

That, and a break-it-wide-open grand slam by Nicole Sullivan loomed large as the fifth-ranked Mustangs defeated No. 4 Humboldt, 7-4, in a Class 3A quarterfinal at the state softball tournament Monday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.

“Coach told us that routine plays make great plays,” Mustangs catcher Mandy Morrical said. “If you keep making those routine plays, then you can start making the great plays.”

Added Jenna Sprague: “I don’t know what other teams do, but we practice at a level expected of us at game time.”

At some point in the game, each of the Mount Vernon infielders made a highlight-reel play of some sort.

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As a result, the Mustangs (21-4) move into Wednesday’s semifinal against No. 1 Albia (20-1). First pitch will be 4:30 p.m. at Dodger Diamond.

Thanks to all of that defense, which was both errorless and spectacular, Mount Vernon held a 2-1 edge through six innings. Morrical provided the clutch early hit, a two-run double in the first inning.

Humboldt (20-3) got within 2-1 in the third on Ellie Jacobson’s RBI single. But the Mustangs kept holding the Wildcats at arm’s length. It wasn’t just from their gloves.

Right fielder Ella Wischmeier threw out a runner at second that was trying to stretch a hit into a double. Sprague cut down the tying run at the plate on a squeeze attempt in the sixth.

Burying the lead here, but Sullivan came up in the seventh with the bases loaded and the score still 2-1.

First pitch: Gone.

“I was looking for anything but a riseball,” Sullivan said. “I got a fastball inside, and that’s my go-to. I knew we needed more runs, and it was time for me to do my job.”

A former Cedar Rapids Prairie student who had done most of her softball work on the club circuit, Sullivan fits right in at Mount Vernon.

“I really have something to play for,” she said. “I play for myself, for my team, for my parents. So many people have given up so much for me to be on this field tonight.”

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The end was quite fitting. Humboldt’s Kendal Clark roped a two-run single that would have brought the tying run to the plate. But the Mustangs pulled a 9-2-5-6 putout on the basepaths to end it.

They made it look routine. They had found their own “seven.”

MOUNT VERNON 7, HUMBOLDT 4

Class 3A State Quarterfinal, at Fort Dodge

Mount Vernon 200 000 5 — 7 10 0

Humboldt 001 000 3 — 4 11 2

Jenna Sprague and Mandy Morrical. Ellie Jacobson and Mady Lange. W — Sprague (15-2). L — Jacobson (18-2). HR — MV: Nicole Sullivan (3).

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

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