Panthers pull off shocker, upset Keokuk in regional softball tourney opener
KEOKUK — Swept by the Purple Chiefs during the conference season, the Mt. Pleasant Panther softball team saved the best for last, shocking 14th-ranked Keokuk, 8-1, in the Class 4A Regional Softball Tournament opener Thursday night.
The Panthers simply weren’t ready to call it a season. Despite being denied a pair of runs by a controversial call, Mt. Pleasant had plenty in the tank, racing to a 4-1 lead after three innings and never leaving the door open for the Chiefs.
After Hattie Liechty scored MP’s first run to tie the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the second, the Panthers loaded the bases. Leadoff hitter Leslie Taylor swatted a Taylor Lemon offering to deep centerfield. Keokuk’s centerfielder caught the ball while diving.
Panther runners at second and third both tagged up on the play and scored by the time the ball was thrown in from center. However, Keokuk claimed the Panther runner at third had left early and appealed. Following a lengthy discussion between the coaches and umpires, Keokuk’s appeal was upheld, wiping a pair of runs off the board and ending the inning.
Undaunted, MP did get the two runs back and tacked on another in the third to claim a 4-1 lead. Eighth-grader Jackie Fraise’s single was the inning’s big blow. One of four Keokuk errors also gave the winners another run.
Panther ace Jena Stukerjurgen kept the Chief bats quiet the remainder of the game. The junior permitted just five hits and walked two. Taylor, a three-time state long-jump champ 100-meter hurdle placer (including a state title as a sophomore), led the MP defense, running down two long aerials from Keokuk bats.
Mt. Pleasant, 16-23 on the year, moves on to the regional semifinals in Fairfield Saturday night, meeting the eighth-ranked Trojans (29-6). The game offers Troy Mears’ Panthers another opportunity for redemption. Fairfield is 4-0 against Mt. Pleasant this year, including a doubleheader sweep in Mt. Pleasant July 7.
Keokuk ended the year 23-14.