ELDRIDGE — Fourteen wins in a row. Fifteen victories over ranked opponents. No losses to unranked opponents.
It’s a resume that Muscatine head coach Steve Hopkins believes should be looked at closely for a chance to host a regional final.
“In my opinion, this team here is one of the top-five teams in the state,” Hopkins said. “I think these kids have done everything they could do to be a top-five team.”
After going 4-0 at the Rick Doran Classic in Iowa City over the weekend, the Muskies kept winning when they needed to Monday night.
Powered by Rylie Moss’s defensive dive in Game 1 and a seven-run inning in Game 2, Class 5A ninth-ranked Muscatine swept Class 4A fourth-ranked North Scott 3-2 and 9-2 to earn a solo second place finish in the Mississippi Athletic Conference at North Scott High School.
“We’re happy with second place,” Hopkins said. “It’s a lot about momentum and confidence. To come in here and be able to beat a very good North Scott team twice, we’re happy with that.”
Senior Kaylie Reynolds is hopeful when the final rankings are released on Wednesday that it will be in the Muskies favor.
“It’s been on our mind,” Reynolds said. “Just giving the best campaign we could going into final rankings.”
Moss kept the opener in favor of the Muskies (30-7, 15-3 MAC) with a catch in shallow center field.
After the Lancers (24-14, 12-6) scored to make it a one-run game and put the tying run on second base, a ball off the bat of Paige Westlin went over the shortstop into Moss’s glove for the third out.
“I don’t really think when I catch, I just went for it,” said Moss, who registered two hits in the opener. “I was trying to back up Carrie and keep the momentum on our side.”
It was a moment that Holly Hoelting felt like a momentum changer.
“I don’t know if the momentum was gone, but it definitely wasn’t going up after that” North Scott’s head coach said. “It kind of hurts. It was rough on our end.”
Carrie Nelson notched her 19th win in the circle, tossing a complete game with three strikeouts.
Muscatine grabbed the early on an Emily Nietzel RBI single and Nikole Molina’s run scoring groundout for the 2-0 lead. Reynolds hit a double in the third that scored Kaylynn Salyars to make it 3-0.
Reynolds and Olivia Harmon each went 2-for-3 at the plate in the opener.
In the nightcap, after getting just two base runners against sophomore southpaw Ryann Cheek in the first three frames, Muscatine's bats came to life.
Salyars leadoff double kick started the frame and was brought home on Reynolds double for the first run. Kaitlyn Lathrop and Nikole Molina drove in runs on singles to up the lead to 3-0.
Haley Jarrett walked in a run and Salyars roped her second double of the inning for two runs. Four of the runs were scored with two outs.
“We had gotten through the lineup and we had seen her enough to know what to expect,” Reynolds said. “We just looked for our pitch and made solid contact.”
With a bunch of the hitters in the Muskies lineup batting left-handed, Hoelting believed it was set up for Cheek to pitch well into the game.
She left in the fourth inning and allowed five earned runs.
“She usually does pretty well with lefties and that threw me off a little bit,” Hoelting said. “When she doesn’t go 1-2-3, our defense has to make plays and that’s when we’re on our heels.”
That was more than enough run support for eighth-grader Maura Chalupa.
The right-hander allowed seven hits and induced 14 fly ball outs to hold the North Scott offense at bay.
Tossing six plus innings earned her sixth win of the season and remained perfect.
“For her to come out on this stage on senior night, she kept her composure,” Hopkins said. “Maura is a very humble kid and she does whatever you ask her to. For an eighth-grader, this is big for her.”
Six different players had at least one RBI in the nightcap. Jarrett, Molina and Salyars each notched two hits.
Muscatine will open its postseason run on Saturday against Cedar Rapids Jefferson with a possible regional final game against eighth-ranked Ottumwa next Tuesday. North Scott awaits the winner of Burlington and Fort Madison for its postseason opener.
“We just got to keep doing what we have been doing,” Hopkins said. “It’s one game at a time, we’re not going to change a lot of things. We can’t be satisfied.”