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Mustang walk-off

East Marshall grinds out win over Hudson

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - East Marshall’s Hannah Birks, left, is congratulated by Reagan McIlrath, center, and head coach Jary Hoskey after driving in McIlrath as the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning of Friday’s softball game against Hudson in Le Grand. The Class 2A No. 12 Mustangs won 3-2.

LE GRAND — Offense was at a premium Friday night in Le Grand.

Through three-and-a-half innings in East Marshall’s final home game of the season, there was none to be seen as neither team got on the scoresheet. It was a battle of pitchers: East Marshall senior Kodie Hoskey and Hudson sophomore Ella Engel. The battle continued through the end of the Class 2A No. 12 Mustangs’ walk-off 3-2 win against the Pirates (7-7) as the Mustangs ended the regular season at 13-2.

In the bottom half of the fourth inning, the breakthrough came for East Marshall through the bat of Morgan Neuroth, who hit a double that drove pinch runner Elyse Roseland in to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.

Coach Jary Hoskey gave Hudson credit for keeping East Marshall at bay.

“We didn’t move the ball,” Jary said. “We had eight hits but didn’t string them together. We had chances, but we just couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it until the end.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - East Marshall’s Hannah Birks (14) makes contact with the game-winning hit to drive in the Mustangs’ final run for a 3-2 victory over Hudson on Friday night in Le Grand.

“Their pitcher had us baffled.”

The fifth inning went like the first three innings: pitching and defense setting the tone for both teams, with hits few and far between. East Marshall did end up with eight hits on the night, but none of them were consecutive — Hudson made it difficult to find a rhythm.

Kodie went all seven innings and kept the Pirates scoreless for the opening five innings while giving up just one hit and six strikeouts.

The Mustangs were holding on but in the sixth inning the Pirates broke through with a two-run single from Engel to take the lead. Engel was caught attempting to steal second base to end the inning, but it was enough to go into the bottom of the inning 2-1.

East Marshall didn’t do anything in the bottom of the sixth, going down in order to hand Hudson momentum into the final inning of the game.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

But, when it mattered most, Kodie tightened up and the Mustangs’ defense held — presenting the offense with a final opportunity.

“When you’ve Kodie on the mound or a good pitcher on the mound, one run is a big difference,” Jary said. “Tonight we got three, and they only got two. Good win for our program.”

A leadoff single from designated hitter Callyn Curphy (replaced by pinch runner Ellie Hull) gave East Marshall the tying run on first base. Hull advanced to second on a Neuroth sacrifice fly and was driven in by eighth-grader Rayne McIlrath’s single to tie it up.

Her older sister Reagan McIlrath singled to get on base right after. Emma Pfantz reached first on a fielder’s choice, with Rayne out at third base. This set the stage for senior Hannah Birks to step up to the plate.

Jary said Birks had a difficult time against Engel, not being able to get over the ball early in the game and flying out in a prior at-bat.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Birks made contact on another fly ball with the game on the line, but this time the ball fell to the outfield grass over the head of Hudson’s second baseman. Reagan rounded third and touched home plate as the winning run, much to the delight of the Mustang dugout.

“We’ve got a lot accomplished this year,” Birks said. “We know that we can come back from behind, so we just gotta keep our heads up, keep hitting and keep making plays.”

The postseason begins Wednesday for the Mustangs with a trip to 12-4 Colfax-Mingo at 7 p.m.

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