Denison-Schleswig had no answer for Independence senior pitcher Mackenzie Hupke on Wednesday, as the Drake University signee tossed a complete-game, no-hitter in her team’s 3-0 victory over the Monarchs in a Class 4A state tournament consolation game at the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex at Fort Dodge.
Making just its second-ever state tournament appearance in school history and first since 2013, D-S saw its 2019 summer campaign end at 26-15 overall under 11th-year head coach Kevin Dau.
Independence, which entered the state tournament ranked fifth and seeded fourth, concluded its season at 31-12 overall with Wednesday’s victory.
The Mustangs dropped to the consolation around after falling 8-2 to sixth-rated and No. 5 seed West Delaware in a state quarterfinal contest on Tuesday.
Independence, a member of the WaMAC Conference, scored the game’s initial run in the bottom of the third inning.
The Mustangs then ended the scoring with two more runs in the last of the fifth for a 3-0 advantage.
That was more than enough for Hupke, who came within one out of throwing a perfect game.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Hupke hit Sarah Heilesen to give D-S its first and only baserunner of the game. She struck out the next batter to end the contest. It was her 11th K overall, upping her season total to 283.
Independence stranded a total of 10 runners on the bases, while the Mustangs also took advantage of four Monarch errors.
"The Hupke girl was a very good pitcher. She was throwing 62 or 63 miles per hour and we just a hard time catching up to that," commented Dau.
"We talked about it all year that you have to play well in all three facets of the game. I thought (Heilesen) threw very well in her last pitching performance. They scored three runs all three were unearned," he added.
"We had four errors again and they took advantage of those. Ultimately, that was the difference in the game."
Despite going 0-2 at Fort Dodge, Dau said that the girls have nothing to hang their heads about.
"You know, we had nine seniors that stuck it out all the way. This group of girls has enjoyed a lot of success over the past few years and were a part of a lot of big wins for us througout their careers," Dau said.
"They’ve been great leaders for the younger kids and now it’s time for the underclassmen to step up. We now have a younger group who has experienced this. Granted they didn’t get into the game over the last two days, but they got to experience what Fort Dodge is all about."
"Hopefully, they now know what it takes to get here. The older girls lifted weights. They played multiple sports. They worked year-in and year-out in all of their activities. Our kids play multiple sports and we like that and need that," Dau remarked.
"I think our younger kids saw that and will look to keep the tradition of Monarch softball alive. We’ll come back fighting next year. It will be different, but our youth will be hungry and we’ll be ready to go," Dau stated.
Heilesen and Alex Mohr have been part of the Monarch program since eighth grade and the pitcher/catcher battery will leave 129 career victories.
"They came in as eighth graders and played big roles for us. I’m not selling short any other position, but in the game of softball, your pitcher and catcher can control a lot of things," Dau said.
"I think the other seniors have been part of over 100 wins in their careers, so they’ve seen a lot of softball. It’s just been incredible," the Monarch boss noted.
Both Mohr and Heilesen talked about their state tournament experiences after Wednesday’s defeat.
"It means a lot to end my career at the state tournament with my best friends. The senior class has worked so hard to get here, so it just awesome that we were able to end our careers here," said Mohr, who plans on attending Iowa State University in Ames this fall for pre-med.
Heilesen also said it was a dream come true in having the opportunity to end her career at the state tournament.
"It definitely felt like the third time was the charm," Heilesen said.
"This senior group has played together for a very long time, whether it was in basketball or softball, and we just clicked so well together," added Heilesen, who allowed the three runs on 11 hits with five strikeouts and one walk in the contest.