FORT DODGE — West Delaware knew what to expect.
The Hawks applied constant pressure and took advantage of a breakthrough, six-run fourth inning en route to an 8-2 victory over WaMaC Conference rival Independence Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the Class 4A state softball tournament.
This marked a reversal from an epic, 14-inning game earlier this season in which Drake recruit and Independence ace Mackenzie Hupke schooled the Hawks with 15 strikeouts. The lesson West Delaware’s players learned from that game was that they’d have to do more against inside pitches to find success.
“Before we played them we knew we could hit it, but it wasn’t our strong spot,” said West Delaware shortstop Eve Wedewer, who finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, including a two-run haymaker in the fourth inning. “After that game we worked and worked and worked. We really can hit the inside pitch.”
While West Delaware (31-10) tested the Mustangs early, Independence (30-12) made a series of aggressive defensive plays to escape jams.
Shortstop Abby Davis facilitated a 6-2-5 putout that prevented Wedewer from scoring following her first-inning double. Left fielder Sydney Hearn later recorded a catch and doubled a runner off second to end the third.
That tightrope walk ended as moments of hesitation allowed the floodgates to open in a fourth inning that saw 10 West Delaware hitters step to the plate.
“They were definitely putting the ball at us, giving us a run for our money, but we fell short,” Davis said. “We’re normally pretty sound defensively, but West Delaware did a good job of putting it in play, putting it in the holes.”
A fourth-inning Hawks’ leadoff hit was followed by a short blooper between two infielders for another hit. Hupke was unable to get a full-count call on a one-out walk that loaded the bases, and after fielding a grounder for a force at home, West Delaware produced runs on four consecutive two-out at-bats. The outburst included a hit batter, Wedewer’s double and singles from Ella Koloc and Macey Kleitsch.
“We got tentative on stuff and usually we’re aggressive,” Independence coach Heather Hupke said. “In the first three innings we were aggressive. We’d get the ball, we’d get the double play, we’d stay at that. Then for whatever reason we got tentative and the wheels fell off the bus.”
While Mackenzie Hupke has been one of the state’s most dominant pitchers with 270 strikeouts and just 14 earned runs allowed in 187 innings this season, West Delaware only struck out twice on this day and recorded 12 hits.
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“I think they were looking for everything hard and they were looking for one spot,” Heather Hupke said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t getting that other spot called. That’s the way it goes.”
Brooke Beatty led Independence’s attack with a two-run single in the first inning, but Kleitsch kept the Mustangs in check from there.
Similar to a year ago, Independence will have an opportunity to close its state tournament trip with a win. The Mustangs face Denison-Schleswig in a consolation game at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
That contest will mark one final opportunity for a class of six senior starters to compete alongside each other after helping turn around their tradition-rich program that hadn’t been to state in 13 years prior to last season.
“We’re not going to let down this next game,” Davis said. “We’re going to come back fighting and we’re going to go out with a bang. I just love playing with these girls. They’re a great group. I’m so fortunate to have great teammates like them.”
Added Heather Hupke, “This senior class is pretty special. They’ve done some things for this program to get it back. The time they’ve put in and what they’ve done with each other and for each other, I’m so grateful that we get the opportunity to come back and play well and end with a W.”
West Delaware 8, Independence 2
West Delaware 010 610 0 — 8 12 1
Independence 200 000 0 — 2 4 2
Macey Kleitsch and Leah Wegmann. Mackenzie Hupke and Kenzie Fischels. 2B — Eve Wedewer 2 (WD), JoAnna Voss (WD).