The Lady Mustang softball team’s dream season came to an end July 12 as they suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to West Liberty in the Class 3A Region 8 championship game. The Lady Mustangs finish the season with a 21-8 record overall and a 9-3 record in the South Central Conference.

Davis County had its sights set on qualifying for the Iowa State Softball Tournament this week with a win over West Liberty. That dream could have become a reality for the first time in school history. It just wasn’t meant to be.

West Liberty took the lead late in this game and wouldn’t give up that lead to Davis County no matter what. West Liberty broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with an RBI double to win the game 4-3 and end Davis County’s season.

This was one of best and evenly matched softball games Davis County has played all season long. The two teams battled through four scoreless innings showcasing the defensive play and the pitching that has allowed both teams to find success during the 2021 season.

Davis County did have its chances early to get something going offensively, but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities that West Liberty gave them. Rachel McFarland reached base in the first inning when she hit a ball to the left side. She was safe on an error but was left stranded on base at the end of the inning.

Briley Lough picked up the team’s first hit in the top of the second when she hit the ball on the ground to left field. She was thrown out at second on a force play and West Liberty executed a double play to get out of the inning quickly.

Ground balls hit by Davis County in the third all resulted in outs. West Liberty retired Davis County in order in both the third and fourth innings.

Defensively, Davis County played well early. West Liberty put the ball in play and forced the Lady Mustangs to showcase their defensive abilities. Two pop-ups to Briley Lough at shortstop and a fly ball to Cadan VanLaningham in right field retired West Liberty in the first inning.

Davis County Pitcher Madeline Barker picked up her first strikeout in the second inning before fly balls to Sophia Young and Lough finished off the inning. The defensive success continued into the bottom of the third as Davis County retired the first nine West Liberty batters.

West Liberty’s first hit came in the bottom of the fourth inning against Barker. It was a ground ball that snuck through the right side of the infield. McFarland caught two pop-ups and Barker picked up her third strikeout to get out of the inning.

Sydney Henderson got Davis County going in the fifth when she reached on an error. Jalee Lough beat out a throw to first on a ball she hit to deep shortstop, and Davis County had two on base with one out. Infield ground balls hit by Madison Dunlavy and Cadan VanLaningham ended the inning with two base runners stranded.

West Liberty scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the fifth. Isabel Morrison singled off Barker to get the inning going. She later scored when Rylee Goodale reached on a Lady Mustang error.

Davis County responded with a run of its own in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 1-1. McFarland singled to left with two outs to get the Lady Mustangs going. Kaitlyn Olinger and Briley Lough both reached on errors, which helped McFarland score the run to tie the game.

West Liberty rallied again in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead once more. A one-out single from Sailor Hall got the rally going. Then a double from Finley Hall and a another hit from Janey Gingerich brought those two runs in to score. West Liberty took a 3-1 lead into the top of the seventh inning.

Davis County needed to rally in the seventh and responded with two huge runs to keep the game going. Jalee Lough drew a walk following a seven-pitch at-bat. VanLaningham reached on an error. Sophia Young put Davis County back in the game with one swing. Her RBI double to deep right field scored Lough. Macy Hill’s sacrifice fly ball hit to deep center scored VanLaningham from third to tie the game at 3-3.

West Liberty led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right from Goodale. After a sacrifice bunt, Pearson Hall provided the winning hit. Her double into the left-center gap was just out of reach for Both Young and left Henderson. The ball got down. Goodale was able to score on the play, and West Liberty won 4-3.

Score                        R H E

DC    000    001    2    3 3 2

WL    000    012    1    4 7 5

Pitching—Barker, L, 4 runs, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts and 0 walks.

Hits—Young, 1; Briley Lough, 1 and McFarland, 1.

RBI—Young, 1 and Hill, 1.