Tuesday’s regional final between Muscatine and Ottumwa had a little bit of everything. It had clutch hits, rallies and home runs. It also had mental mistakes and fielding errors. Unfortunately for the Muskies, it was the Bulldogs who made the big plays when it mattered most in the extra-inning thriller.
Ottumwa scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand Muscatine a 12-9 season-ending loss in the Class 5A Region 7 final. The Muskies retire with a 31-8 record after a home loss to end their season one game short of state. The Class 5A No. 9 Bulldogs (33-7), meanwhile, advance to the state tournament for the 28th time in program history with a nine-inning win.
“I feel so bad for them,” Muscatine coach Steve Hopkins said of his team. “We came up a little bit short but to me it was still a great season. We did a lot of great things.”
With the score tied 9-9 in the top of the ninth, Ottumwa junior Jillian Heaton hit an RBI single up the middle to give the Bulldogs a 10-9 lead. Then, Hannah Huisinga stepped up to the plate and delivered a double down the right field line to score two.
After rallying to tie the score twice earlier in the game, that deficit was too much for Muscatine to overcome. Huisinga finished the game with hits in four of her five plate appearances, one home run and four RBIs.
“It just felt like we were playing catch-up all night,” Hopkins said. “That’s not the way we want to play.”
Trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the fifth, the Class 5A No. 7 Muskies plated four runs in the inning to tie the score. After back-to-back singles by Rylie Moss and Haley Jarrett, Kaylynn Salyars ripped a two-RBI double for the inning’s first two runs.
Moments later, senior Kaylie Reynolds belted a two-run home run to tie the game 7-7.
Neither team scored in the sixth or seventh but Ottumwa plated two in the eighth to take a 9-7 lead. However, Nikole Molina, another Muskie senior, delivered in a big moment.
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With runners on first and second, Molina hit a two-RBI shot to the center field fence to tie the game 9-9. Molina was thrown out at third on the play, and the Bulldogs retired the next two batters before pulling ahead for good in the ninth.
“That’s what you’re hoping for out of your seniors,” Hopkins said. “We fought back-and-forth but struggled to maintain momentum. Every time we felt we had a little momentum they’d take it right back.”
That was true in the beginning of the game, too.
Muscatine struck first behind the speed of Moss. The sophomore hit a lead-off single, then stole second and third and reached home on a throwing error to give the Muskies a 1-0 lead.
However, that momentum was short-lived for Muscatine, as Ottumwa’s Hannah Huisinga ripped the first pitch of the second over the right field wall for a solo shot. The Bulldogs scored a run on one of the five Muskie errors in the game to take a 3-2 lead.
However, the Bulldogs committed one of their five errors in the bottom of the third, as Kaylie Reynolds hit a line drive to center field that was dropped and scored two runs for Muscatine.
Once again, the Muskies lead didn’t last long. The Bulldogs scored five runs on seven hits in the top of the fourth to take a commanding 7-3 lead. Zoey Jones hit a two-RBI double while both Kaylee Bix and Huisinga drove in one run apiece for a four-run lead.
The Muskies rallied twice but it wasn’t enough, and their season ends one game short of a trip to Fort Dodge.
“I’m proud of them,” Hopkins said. “They kept fighting and did everything we asked them to do. As far as effort and all of that I can’t ask for more.”