Prep Softball

Independence softball holds off young Marion team for first trip to state since 2005

Drake commit Mackenzie Hupke improves to 23-3 as 4A No. 5 Mustangs win, 7-5

The Independence softball team poses with its state-qualifier banner after beating Marion at home Tuesday night in a Class 4A regional final. (Douglas Miles/The Gazette)
The Independence softball team poses with its state-qualifier banner after beating Marion at home Tuesday night in a Class 4A regional final. (Douglas Miles/The Gazette)

INDEPENDENCE — Heather Hupke watched as her star pitcher toiled in pursuit of the final out.

The fourth-year Independence softball coach has a myriad of lifetime roles and experiences to lean on when the action gets tense. A former high school and college pitcher in her own right, Hupke is an accomplished coach but first and foremost, she is “Mom” to Independence junior hurler Mackenzie Hupke.

“I can relate with that,” Hupke said after the fifth-ranked Mustangs held off a late rally from Marion and won, 7-5, in a Class 4A regional final Tuesday night at Mustang Way Park. “Just knowing that she is a competitor and she will find a way to get it done.”

State tournament

Forty Iowa high school softball teams will make their way to Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge next week for the 2018 state tournament.

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Mackenzie Hupke indeed found the path to victory. Staked to a 7-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning, she surrendered three runs and four hits before sending Independence (34-6) to the state tournament for the first time since 2005 with a groundout and a strikeout.

“Just get three outs before they get five runs,” said Mackenzie Hupke, a Drake commit who improved to 23-3 in the circle this season.

Mackenzie Hupke has been coached by her mother dating back to youth league participation.

Regional roundup

The 2018 Iowa high school softball state tournament field was completed Tuesday night as regional finals take place in the larger two classes.

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“It’s been amazing, I’ve really liked it,” she said. “It’s been kind of one of those things. I’m used to it. We understand each other. She was a pitcher, so she knows what I’m going through when I’m out there.”

Marion got on the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning against Hupke. The Mustangs answered in the bottom half of the frame with four runs and just one hit.

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With Independence leading 4-2 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Madelynn Beatty, Kaylee Hosch and Lydia Butters each singled to load the bases. Junior Abby Davis stepped to the plate and provided valuable insurance runs with a three-run double and a 7-2 lead.

“I think it was inside, actually, that’s why I drove up the line at third base,” Davis said. “I knew a base hit would score a runner and it just happened to score three.”

Butters scored twice for Independence, which will play No. 15 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (23-13) in a 4A state quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Fort Dodge.

Freshman leadoff batter Jordyn Dunn singled twice and scored two runs for Marion, which ended its season at 19-17. With a roster that graduates no one and with 12 players out of 17 either freshmen or eighth graders, getting within a game of the state tournament bodes well for the future of the young Indians.

“It’s really amazing,” Marion Coach Scott Fruehling said. “We talked at the beginning of the year about just growing this year and working on getting better. I couldn’t be any prouder of what they’ve accomplished this season.”

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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