For the Hawks of West Delaware, nothing and no one is ‘unhittable’.
Just one week ago, the lineup successfully dismantled Central DeWitt pitcher Mya Cavanagh’s 1.08 ERA to advance to the Class 4A State Tournament. July 23 the Hawks were at it again as they punished Independence’s Mackenzie Hupke with a six-run fourth inning to snag an 8-2 victory and move on to play No. 1 seeded Carlisle in the 4A semifinals.
Hupke arrived in Fort Dodge with a nasty 0.52 ERA and an overall record of 20-6 and had shut down the Hawks back-to-back in a June 12 doubleheader. Still, the Hawks entered the game without fear and found an immediate boost from leadoff hitter Eve Wedewer as she opened the game with a stellar double in the top of the first inning.
“Our team has been working on the inside pitch and I knew she was going to throw me outside from the start,” Wedewer said. “I looked inside out, waited and hit the outside pitch to left field,” Wedewer said.
The Hawks failed to score in that frame, however, and the Mustangs scored two early runs on three hits in the bottom of the first while leaving three more on base. Still, WD head coach Tiffany Rave maintained confidence in her lineup.
“When we played them at the beginning of the season, we didn’t hit that inside corner very well. Since then we’ve adapted and worked on it. Up and down my lineup today, I was super pleased with the way we swung the bat, patience at the plate, swinging at good pitches, and hitting the ball hard,” Rave said.
The Hawks answered with a solo run in the top of the second as sophomore Eva Winn rounded the bases off a Claire Demmer bunt. From there, Hawk ace Macey Kleitsch came in and ended the second with a pair of consecutive strikeouts.
Down 2-1, Wedewer drew a walk and Ella Koloc singled to set up Kleitsch at the plate. The junior went on to smash the ball to left field, but it was caught to end the inning. West Delaware returned in the bottom of that inning with some savvy catches in the outfield plus another strikeout from the circle.
Then, in the top of the fourth, the Hawks decided to bring down the house. Heather Heims threaded the needle with a liner right along the third baseline for a single to get things started.
By the time the inning was over, Heims was back up to the plate for a second time. Winn came up and hit one right past the Mustang’s third baseman for another single. Claire Demmer flew out to left field after that, but Hupke loaded the bases by walking Hawk senior JoAnna Voss.
Heims was thrown out at home shortly after for the second out, but Hupke hit junior Leah Wegmann with a pitch to bring Wedewer back up to the plate. What follows is her first-hand account of the moment that would change everything.
“Heading into that fourth inning, coach Rave was in the dugout and she turns to me and says, ‘this is the inning, let’s go.’ I get on deck and see Leah get hit and I just get so hyped. (Hupke) pitched me inside and I hit it to left field — it was probably the greatest feeling of the entire game,” Wedewer said.
The Hawks weren’t done yet, however, as Kleitsch came in and delivered another RBI to make the score 7-2. By the time the damage was done, the Hawks had slammed Hupke for five hits and six runs, with just a single runner left on base.
“I am just so proud of that inning,” Kleitsch said. “Everybody was getting on base and everybody was contributing. Honestly, for this team it’s not just one or two people, it’s all of us — and that’s what makes this so special.”
After that, Winn came back up and battled a 1-2 count by fouling off twice before Hupke finally brought her down with a strikeout to end the frame. By then, the atmosphere in the sun-scorched stadium had changed entirely, and the Independence dugout was stunned.
“It helped that we played them before. I know we lost then, but I think that kind of gave us an edge on them this time. We were out to get them, and that made everyone more intense in the game — we had more energy,” Kleitsch said.
West Delaware came back and dropped the Mustangs quickly in the bottom of the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Claire Demmer hit one a couple of millimeters inside the third baseline for a double with just one out. Voss singled after that and Demmer went to third. An overthrow by the Mustangs was the final nail in the coffin, as Demmer ran in to make it 8-2.
Independence’s Kaylee Hosch cranked a double of her own with just one out in the bottom of the fifth, but several key defensive plays ultimately shut down the Mustang’s comeback efforts. West Delaware’s defense continued to shine for the rest of the game.
WD opened the sixth with a pair of singles from Wedewer and Koloc, but the Mustangs made some plays in the outfield and caught a pop out in foul territory to end the inning.
Heims caught a liner from Hupke’s bat in the bottom of the sixth and proceeded to snag the second out on a fly ball hit by Indee’s Kenzie Fischels. Brooke Beatty hit a flyout after that to end the frame.
“We practice those all the time,” Heims said of her infield heroics at second base. “At the beginning of the season, I was just barely getting those plays behind first base. Those plays are just routine for us now.”
Heims came back in the bottom of the seventh by snagging one away from Indee senior Abby Davis. From there, Kleitsch decided to bring the win home herself, dishing on Mustang hitters Sydney Hearn and Megan Brock.
“They could’ve gone on a run just like we did. I was going for it and I trusted the defense behind me. I was playing it like any other inning, I didn’t want to try too hard or let up too much,” Kleitsch said.
West Delaware improved to 31-10 with the win, while Independence (31-12) walked off the field in a state of sheer disbelief. Meanwhile, the Hawks celebrated yet another instant classic in an unforgettable postseason run.