INDEPENDENCE — Late-inning composure is a staple of any successful postseason march.
Down to its last six outs in front of an overflow home crowd Tuesday night, the Independence Mustangs’ softball team got the rally it needed and will gallop on to the softball state tournament for the second-straight year.
“I knew we weren’t going to give up,” Independence senior pitcher Mackenzie Hupke said after the fifth-ranked Mustangs used a three-run sixth inning to oust Iowa City Liberty, 4-2, in a Class 4A regional final at Independence High School. “We have been a team all year that has fought, so I just knew that we were going to pull it off. We always find a way. We’re so competitive.”
The state berth is the ninth in school history for Independence (30-11), which will play West Delaware in a 4A state quarterfinal July 23 at Rogers Sport Complex in Fort Dodge.
“We do the little things that we need to do,” Independence Coach Heather Hupke said. “So that is our focus going into this, is, ‘What do we do?’ Don’t worry about what somebody else does. Take care of that and it will take care of itself.”
After Liberty grabbed a 2-1 lead in rhe top of the sixth inning with a two-out RBI single by Ella McLaughlin, the Mustangs loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half. Indee senior Kaylee Hosch took advantage of a Liberty wild pitch and sprinted home with the tying run.
“I just knew that I had to be dedicated to the plays,” said Hosch, who also tied the game in the third inning with an RBI double. “I knew right if there is an open opportunity to score, we were tying. So I knew I had to get ahead.”
With the potential go-ahead run on third base, Indee sophomore Brooke Beatty chipped a perfect bunt between the pitcher’s circle and first base for an infield hit that scored junior Allie Jo Zieser and gave the Mustangs the lead for good.
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“I just had to have a good mindset going into the batter’s box,” Beatty said. “It was honestly right down the middle. It was a good pitch to get it down.”
Indee junior Mary Puffett finished off the sixth-inning scoring with an RBI single and Hupke retired Liberty in order in the seventh for her 20th victory of the season.
“I just hit my spots,” said Mackenzie Hupke, a Drake signee who finished with eight strikeouts. “I trust whatever our coaches have told us, so just hitting my spots helps them out. My defense has been solid all season, so as long as I hit my spots, I am not really too worried about where they put the ball as long as I keep it in the park.”
Miranda Jones also drove in a run for Liberty, which ends its second season at 21-22.
“They were so focused on trying to get it done this year,” Liberty Coach Jeff Kelley said. “We played well. There were a couple of plays tonight we didn’t make. Credit Independence. The opportunities they got, I would say they maximized about every one of them.”
CLASS 4A REGIONAL FINAL
No. 5 Independence 4, Iowa City Liberty 2
Iowa City Liberty 100 001 0—2
Independence 001 003 X—4
Kara Maiers and Tiffany Jones. Mackenzie Hupke and Kenzie Fischels. W — Mackenzie Hupke (20-6); L — Kara Maiers (13-7).
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