IOWA CITY — The home run ball was expected to be front and center in Tuesday night’s Class 5A regional softball final.
No. 5 City High had blasted 46 homers in 21 games while its opponent, No. 8 Muscatine, had just seven.
Oh, the Little Hawks added to their total with three solo shots, two from Carey Koenig and one from Ayana Lindsey. The surprise power came from the visiting Muskies. They blasted three, including a pair of three-run shots in an eight-run fifth inning en route to a 14-3 victory.
The win sends Coach Steve Hopkins’ team (18-2) back to state for the first time since 2014 to face West Des Moines Valley in the opening round at Fort Dodge. City High, a state qualifier the last two seasons, retires at 17-5.
Little Hawks Coach Jeff Koenig said he thought the pressure of a potential third straight state trip may have had his players tight, but he was also quick to give credit to the Muskies.
“That was a good Muscatine team that came in here,” he said. “You have to give it up to them. They come in here hitting (seven) homers and they hit three over the fence.
“They hit the ball well and I thought we were tentative at the start. I thought we were in a good place coming in. Our practices had been great, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
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Muscatine got great production up and down its lineup. The Muskies banged out 13 hits and scored in all but the fourth inning. Becca Haag, who hadn’t homered entering the contest, capped a three-run first with a line drive laser over the left field fence giving Muscatine a 3-0 lead.
A key point in the game came in the home fourth. Carey Koenig’s second blast of the night to lead off the inning pulled City within 6-3. Sydney Fellows followed with a single and it appeared the Little Hawks had some life.
“That’s been our season,” Jeff Koenig said. “We put a runner on, then put another one over the fence and you have a 6-5 game. We were into the heart of our order.”
However, Muskies freshman hurler Maura Chalupa fanned Keli Potter, Brooke Bormann and Makayla Ribble to end the threat. Chalupa allowed just five hits and struck out 10.
Muscatine put the contest away in the fifth. Malia Cook and Rylee Blake each cracked three-run homers to highlight the eight-run inning.
Coach Koenig had special praise for his seniors, Potter, Bormann, Sydney Fellows and Maggie Glenn.
“They were the ones who helped us retool this program over the past five years,” he said. “This program wasn’t very good when they got here and today it’s in a good place.”