Mustangs break free of BCLUW

Class 2A No. 13 East Marshall clobbers Comets in regional semifinal showdown

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - East Marshall sophomore pitcher Kodie Hoskey (18) is greeted at the dugout by high-fives from her teammates during Friday's Class 2A Region 7 semifinal softball game against BCLUW in Le Grand. Hoskey struck out eight in the win as the No. 13 Mustangs 10-runned the Comets, 12-2 in five innings.

LE GRAND — When BCLUW’s wheels fell off, the East Marshall softball team was standing there with the tire iron and the nuts and bolts.

The Class 2A No. 13 Mustangs made enough contact to force the action and the Comets couldn’t handle it, making seven errors to help East Marshall advance into the Region 7 finals with a 12-2, five-inning victory on Friday night.

East Marshall senior Ellen Hungerford finished 3-for-3 at the plate with a double and six RBIs, plating half of the Mustangs’ runs in their 10th run-rule victory of the season.

This triumph moved East Marshall (26-7) to within a win of its first trip to state since three-straight visits to Fort Dodge from 2012-2014. The Mustangs will travel to Letts for Monday’s 7 p.m. regional final against No. 3 Louisa-Muscatine (34-6), which downed its Southeast Iowa Superconference North Division foe Wapello for the third time this season, 10-3.

East Marshall did the same to BCLUW (20-13), but in a fashion unlike the two previous pairings.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - East Marshall junior Melinda Puumala (11) is congratulated by Madi Duncan after Puumala's sacrifice bunt that was followed by three BCLUW errors, allowing her to score on the play.

The Mustangs, who defeated the Comets by a combined five runs in two NICL West Division meetings this summer, scored five runs in both the second and fifth innings to finish them off in stunning fashion. Hungerford’s last of three hits drove in Abby Ryan and Juliana Arifi as the game-ending runs with only one out in the bottom of the fifth.

“It helps a lot that everyone else was hitting too,” said Hungerford, “otherwise it wouldn’t have meant anything.”

Hungerford had three of East Marshall’s 11 hits against BCLUW pitchers Bailey Ashton and Lauren Anderson. Ashton battled the strike zone early on and only lasted two innings in the circle before Anderson replaced her, yet the damage had already been done.

“I think it changed [the game] a lot, you could tell she got frustrated,” BCLUW co-head coach Megan Yantis said, “but he called it both ways. Both pitchers were getting that [zone] and when I took my timeout, I told the girls we’ve got to deal with it … and the defense has got to step up.”

But the Comets couldn’t make the plays they needed to when pressed by East Marshall’s capable bats. After Ashton issued back-to-back walks to Kodie Hoskey and Madi Duncan to start the bottom of the second, Melinda Puumala’s hard-hit grounder skipped off third baseman Kiersten Kruse’s glove and into left field, plating in a run. Reagan McIlrath followed with an RBI single off the left-field fence, and a two-out walk to Arifi re-loaded the bases.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - BCLUW's Bailey Ashton, left, can't reel in the throw at first base as East Marshall's Melinda Puumala (11) reaches safely.

Hungerford, one of two East Marshall seniors playing their final home game, slapped a two-run single to right.

“She’s been a senior leader since she was a sophomore,” said Mustangs head coach Jary Hoskey. “Ellen had a good night and I’m happy to see her go out with that.”

The Mustangs carried a 6-1 lead into the fourth inning before BCLUW senior Lili Wilson hit her first career home run, a solo shot to left that brought the Comets within four runs.

East Marshall responded in kind with a leadoff triple for Madison Farrington, and Ryan — her courtesy runner — scored easily on Hungerford’s double to right-center field.

BCLUW got a leadoff single from Lauren Anderson to start the fifth inning but nothing more, and the Comet offense never got another chance.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - BCLUW senior Lili Wilson, left, smiles as she heads toward home plate on her first-career home run, a solo shot in the fourth inning of the Comets' season-ending loss Friday in Le Grand.

Duncan doubled to start the home half of the fifth, and Puumala’s sacrifice bunt led to three throwing errors that allowed the Mustang junior track and cross country standout to race all the way around the bases to score. McIlrath also reached on an error, Farrington followed one out later with a single to left, and Arifi’s hit up the middle plated McIlrath to make it 10-2.

As she had done all night, Hungerford delivered again. Her chopper up the middle plated both baserunners and ended the game abruptly.

“We knew going in they were going to get hits, we just needed to play solid defense and unfortunately we had one too many miscues tonight,” said Comet co-coach Ashley Higgins.

Kodie went the distance in the circle for the Mustangs, striking out eight while walking four. She allowed only four hits, with Wilson going 2-for-2 in her final game. Cate Nason had an RBI single in the top of the first for the Comets, driving in Kruse, and Anderson singled as well.

“To beat two teams three times in a row is tough, and BCLUW’s an awfully good team, a well-coached team,” said coach Hoskey. “I think tonight maybe we hit the ball at them, made some plays and pitched out of a couple spots that possibly could have cost us.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - East Marshall senior first baseman Ellen Hungerford awaits the throw as BCLUW baserunner Madison Ubben dives back safely during their Class 2A Region 7 softball semifinal on Friday night in Le Grand. Hungerford had three hits and drove in six runs for the Mustangs.

“We were lucky enough to come out of here with a win and give us some momentum going into Monday night. It’s been a fun ride all year long. Now we’ve accomplished four of our six goals, and if we make it to state that’ll be five, so we’ve got a shot Monday night.”

In addition to Hungerford’s three-hit performance, three other Mustangs had two hits apiece in Puumala, Farrington and Duncan.

Ashton and Anderson surrendered six runs apiece, though only one was earned to Anderson, who struck out three and didn’t walk a batter. Ashton struck out four but walked a season-high six in the season-ending loss.

“They all have good at-bats,” Yantis said. “There’s lots of them that can hit home runs so you’ve got to be careful with the majority of 1-through-9. It’s definitely their hitting but they’re a good ballclub all around.”

East Marshall 12, BCLUW 2, 5 innings

At Le Grand

BCLUW 100 10 — 2 4 7

EM 150 15 — 12 11 2

Bailey Ashton, Lauren Anderson (3) and Lili Wilson; Kodie Hoskey and Madison Farrington. W–Hoskey (17-5). L–Ashton (15-9). 2B–EM: Ellen Hungerford, Madi Duncan. 3B–EM: Farrington. HR–BCLUW: Wilson (1). LOB–BCLUW 6, EM 8.