Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – A season that was shortened and interrupted because of a global pandemic ended sooner than expected for the fifth-ranked City High softball team because of a talented and red-hot opponent.
No. 8 Muscatine jumped all over the Little Hawks, scoring three runs in the first inning and two in the second, and then never trailed while cruising to a surprising 14-3 victory in a Class 5A regional final at City High.
The game was stopped after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
City High had trimmed the deficit to 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by junior catcher Cary Koenig, but then Muscatine answered with eight runs in the top of the fifth on six hits, including a 3-run homer to left field by No. 9 hitter Malia Cook.
Muscatine isn’t known for hitting the long ball, but Cook’s blast was one of three home runs by the Muskies in Tuesday’s game.
“You know what, they hit the ball well tonight,” said City High coach Jeff Koenig, who is Cary Koenig’s father. “They put some pressure on us. I thought we were tentative at the beginning of the game.
“I thought we were in a good place coming in. Our practices had been great. But it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
Muscatine improved to 18-2 and will advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, while City High finished the season with an 18-5 record and fell one victory short of advancing to the state tournament for the third year in a row.
Asked if the thinks his players felt the pressure of trying to meet high expectations, Jeff Koenig said:
“I think they did. The last couple years being here, and that’s a good Muscatine team that will make a lot of noise at the state tournament. There’s no doubt about that.
“That’s a good team. They can put the ball in places. They pitch well and they just did all the little things that gives you a chance to go to Fort Dodge, and we just didn’t quite tonight.”
City High has relied heavily on home runs to carry its offense throughout the season, and that was the case again on Tuesday as it scored all three of its runs on home runs.
Cary Koenig also smacked a solo home in the first inning, while junior Ayana Lindsey hit a solo blast in the third.
Cary Koenig and Lindsey both finished the season with 12 home runs, which is tied for the most in Class 5A.
However, Lindsey struggled on the mound and was replaced in the fourth inning by Ella Cook.
Muscatine combined for 13 hits against City High’s two junior pitchers, while the Little Hawks only had five hits as a team, and also committed three errors.
“I think it’s extremely tough,” Lindsey said. “We were hoping to come out here and be the best that we can be and work as a team. And this year, just wasn’t it. You can get them all of the time. We have our ups and downs and we were just in a slump and I think next year we’re going to come out fighting even harder than we did this year in trying to get that state championship.”
The City High program left much to be desired from a competitive standpoint when Jeff Koenig took over as head coach four years ago.
The current juniors and seniors have helped to lead a softball revival of sorts. But with that success comes a target on your back, which senior second baseman Keli Potter started to feel this season.
“When I was a freshman, we were always the team that had to prove ourselves and then this year, we kind had people that wanted to beat us more,” Potter said. “And it was just harder and a whole different mindset that we had to do.
“And tonight just wasn’t the best night.”
The distractions caused by the highly contagious Coronavirus, and figuring ways to deal with those distractions, also has been a challenge throughout the season for every team.
“It was definitely weird training on your own because you couldn’t go to the facility because it was locked and you had to have a key,” Potter said. “There was a lot of factors, yeah.
“But we definitely could have played better tonight.”
Muscatine 321 08 – 14 13 0
City High 101 10 – 3 5 3
W – Maura Chalupa L – Ayana Lindsey
HR – ICH: Cary Koenig (2), Ayana Lindsey. MUS: Becca Haag, Olivia Harmon, Malia Cook.