FORT DODGE, Iowa – Mallory Hohenadel turned to the Louisa-Muscatine cheering section, jumped and let out a yell. The Falcons had just snatched the momentum, and they weren’t about to give it back.
A few minutes later, her sister, McKenna Hohenadel, hit a blooper to shallow left field to score two runs. That was the knockout punch for Louisa-Muscatine, which used a six-run fifth inning to beat West Liberty 10-2 in the Class 3A state semifinals at Rogers Sports Complex.
No. 2 seed Louisa-Muscatine advances to the state title game to take on No. 1 seed Davenport Assumption Friday at 3:30 p.m. It’s a matchup of defending state champions, Assumption in Class 3A and Louisa-Muscatine in Class 2A.
“You could just tell their energy was falling,” freshman McKenna Hohenadel said of the fifth inning. “Our energy was so much higher. There was nothing that could bring us down.”
The Falcons stranded runners in scoring position in all of the first four innings, but it didn’t take long for them to realize the fifth inning would belong to them.
“When we got the first runner on was when we were like, ‘This is our inning, we’re going to score some runs,’” senior Katie Koppe said.
Seniors Mallory Mashek and Katie Hearn were walked, while junior Hailey Sanders reached on an infield single. The bases were loaded, just like in the fourth inning, but this time the Falcons cashed in.
Freshman Kenna Law reached on an error from West Liberty’s Haylee Lehman, the Comets’ third of the game. An RBI single from sophomore Maddie Mashek and two bases-loaded walks from Mallory Hohenadel and Kylee Sanders expanded the Falcons’ lead to 6-2.
“We let it fall apart in the fifth inning,” West Liberty coach Chad Libby said. “We made some defensive mistakes that us coaches were not used to seeing. Deep down, you know a team that has seen (Isabelle True) for four years has a pretty good scouting report.
“They showed that with their bats as it got later in the game.”
Then, McKenna Hohenadel, knowing True was going to throw a changeup, poked a two-RBI single down the third-base line to take an 8-2 lead and cap off the six-run explosion. It’s the 100th career win for Louisa-Muscatine coach Bryan Butler.
“We could tell they were getting down,” L-M junior Hailey Sanders said. “We just blew it open. We’re letting it loose, and everything is coming together so well.”
However, the Falcons had to play from behind for the first few innings after a miscue to start the game. Shortstop Kylee Sanders lost a pop fly in the sun, and West Liberty’s Austyn Crees cashed that in for an infield double. Then, Macy Akers drilled an RBI single to give the Comets (29-6) a 1-0 lead.
“We lost quite a few (in the sun),” L-M senior Mallory Hohenadel said. “It was tough. They just said to try to get your glove in front of it.”
Louisa-Muscatine responded in the third inning, as it scored two runs after West Liberty first baseman Ellen Carrow couldn’t corral a throw with two runners on base.
West Liberty struck back in the top of the fourth with a solo home run from freshman Sailor Hall to center field to tie the game 2-2. It came moments after a miscommunication between L-M’s Koppe and McKenna Hohenadel led to a dropped pop fly in foul territory.
“When I got my first pitch and realized it was coming outside and I popped it up over first base, and she did drop it, I said, ‘I’m going to make her pay,’” Hall said. “I went for the next pitch and took it where it was supposed to go.”
The Falcons didn’t flinch. Butler said his players were over the miscue by the time they entered the dugout.
“(We) just pick each other up so much,” McKenna Hohenadel said. “We understand errors are going to happen. It happens to everyone, we’re not perfect. We pick each other up no matter what and then go to the plate with confidence.”
That’s exactly what the Falcons did in the fifth inning, and then Koppe provided the cherry on top in the sixth with a solo home run on the innings’ first pitch, a rise ball inside.
“I’ve seen (True) before so I knew what she pitched,” Koppe said. “I like my inside pitches so I saw that first inside pitch and took it.”
Louisa-Muscatine added another run in the inning, and Hailey Sanders took care of the rest, as the pitcher picked up two of her seven strikeouts in the final inning to book Louisa-Muscatine’s ticket to the state title game.
“She’s Hailey Sanders, I don’t know what else I can say,” Butler said of his junior pitcher, who is 21-0 this season. “She’s that pitcher that keeps her team in every game.
“I’m just so proud of these kids and the way they came through.”