Your Prep Sports
MUSCATINE – There is a breakthrough coming for the Liberty High softball program.
After a fourth regional title game loss in the past five seasons Liberty High head coach Mike Morrison knows his team is on the verge of breaking through
Maura Chalupa and Muscatine made sure that breakthrough didn’t come on Tuesday.
Chalupa struck out nine in a complete game two hitter as seventh-ranked Muscatine (32-6) returned to the state tournament for the third time in the past four seasons with a 2-0 win over No. 12 Liberty High in the Class 5A, Region 7 title game at Kent-Stein Park in Muscatine.
“We are really close, we are getting there and I think it’s coming,” Morrison said. “We have six starters back and there is more talent coming so I am looking forward to watching this program continue to grow the hard part is you have to wait until May to do it.”
Liberty High lost heartbreaking regional finals in 2019 and 2020 and fell to the Muskies on the same field 9-1 in a regional title game a year ago.
On Tuesday Liberty High was again close to the first state tournament berth in program history but couldn’t get over the hump.
Muscatine took advantage of three Liberty High errors in the first two innings to score a pair of unearned runs that proved to be the difference.
The Muskies will face Ankeny (31-6) in a Class 5A quarterfinal on Monday at 1 p.m. at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Liberty High had a five-game winning streak snapped with the loss and closed the season 23-14.
“We have the expectation that we want to be in the top eight and the only way to get into the top eight is to play your way in,” Morrison said. “We were really close tonight to playing our way in.
Muscatine took advantage of two Liberty high errors to score a run without a hit in the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Avery Schroeder reached on an error to open the game and after a successful sacrifice bunt stole third and scoring on a throwing error on the play.
Muscatine added another unearned run in the second when Mia Molina drew a lead off walk and later scored on a Lilly Gray sacrifice fly following another Lightning error.
“It was a bad time to have those mistakes,” Morrison said. “We were well prepared for what we got, we got exactly what we thought we were going to get, I felt like we were prepared for it but the ball got away on a couple of them and unfortunately it ended up leading to two runs.”
After issuing a leadoff walk to Liberty High’s Haley Schroeder to open the game Chalupa settled into a groove.
The senior right-hander retired 20 consecutive batters before losing a no-hit bid on a two-out single by Brynlee Slocket in the seventh.
Junior Mischa Reiners followed with a single up the middle to bring the go ahead run to the plate but Chalupa got Kennedy Daugherty swinging to end the game.
“Kennedy Daugherty hit a homer off her up here last year and that’s in your head and I’m sure coach was thinking the same thing is there is a chance we could have gone up 3-2 real quick,” Morrison said. “We needed to punch a couple more up there and make something but credit to them they did a great job.”
Chalupa struck out nine and walked one in the two-hitter to outduel Liberty High senior Ella Wetjen.
Wetjen allowed just two unearned runs on three hits while walking two in a six-inning complete game.
“That’s a great team and they did a great job and she was fantastic on the mound against us,” Morrison said. “I thought Ella Wetjen was fantastic on the mound and kept us in it and that’s all you can ask for is to have a shot and we had a shot.
Liberty High 000 000 0 – 0 2 3
Muscatine 110 000 x – 2 3 0
W – Maura Chalupa L – Ella Wetjen