ELDRIDGE — Rylee Blake has played travel softball the past several summers instead of joining her Muscatine high school teammates.
But with her college decision solidified, Blake chose to come out for her senior season this summer.
It didn’t take long for the Muscatine second baseman to make a substantial impact.
Blake blasted a second-inning grand slam to power Class 5A 12th-ranked Muscatine past 4A second-ranked North Scott 7-5 in Thursday night’s Mississippi Athletic Conference opener. The Muskies turned it into a sweep with a four-run eighth inning in the nightcap to prevail 9-5.
“She’s not very talkative, but you get her on the field and she speaks volumes,” Muscatine coach Steve Hopkins said. “She does a lot for us. She’s a great athlete, fast and versatile.”
Blake debated about coming out last season. However, she decided to take a biology trip to South Africa for three weeks that would have kept her away from the team in the middle of the season.
Hopkins approached her early in the offseason about joining the Muskies this summer. She didn’t hesitate.
“I’ve always wanted to play high school and be with my friends,” said Blake, who will run cross country and play softball at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. “You’re a little closer with your high school teammates because you’re with each other a lot more.”
Hopkins said her arrival came at a good time for the Muskies, who have only one other senior on the team.
“You hate to see kids pass up high school opportunities,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been on both sides of it. You don’t want to miss out putting on your hometown uniform for your community and classmates.”
The top of Muscatine’s order wreaked havoc on North Scott all night.
Leadoff hitter Rylie Moss had two hits and two runs in the opener. She was on base all five times in the nightcap, including four hits and four runs.
Olivia Harmon, the team’s No. 2 hitter, broke a 5-all tie in the eighth inning of Game 2 with a walk. Cleanup hitter Kaylynn Salyars roped a two-run triple to help Muscatine improve to 4-0 in the opening week.
“This is huge for our confidence, especially being a younger team,” Moss said. “To come and beat a veteran team that has a ton of returning players and the momentum from last season (a state runner-up finish), that was huge for us.
“We were all nervous coming in here. We haven’t had a lot of games under our belt.”
Sophomore pitcher Bree Seaman picked up the win in both games, including 5 2/3 innings of relief in Game 2.
“I really didn’t know what to expect coming in here,” Hopkins said. “We knew this would be a little bit more intense because North Scott is talented, very vocal, energetic and brings a lot of intensity. We just wanted to try and match that intensity.
“Overall, I was happy.”
Sam Lee had a home run and two RBIs for the Lancers (2-2, 2-2) in the opener. She followed with two hits in the nightcap. The Lancers recorded 22 hits in the two games.
Drew Lewis pitched four innings of relief in the opener and went seven-plus innings in the nightcap.
“For us as a coaching staff, we realized our hitting is a lot better than we thought and our pitching is not as good as we thought,” North Scott coach Holly Hoelting said. “Drew Lewis was a horse back there and fantastic for us, but after that we need to do some work the next couple of weeks.
“Scoring five runs is great, but we usually keep our opponents to five or less. Muscatine made it challenging on us.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!