Hailey Sweet was just a fresh-faced eighth-grader when Martensdale-St. Mary's qualified for the state softball tournament for the first time in school history in 2008.
The Blue Devils went on to reach the state championship game, falling to Newell-Fonda.
Four years later, third-ranked (Class 1A) Martensdale-St. Mary's finally found its way back to the finals, scoring a 2-1 victory in eight innings over No. 10 Charter Oak-Ute.
The Blue Devils (40-2 overall) will meet second-ranked Earlham (35-4) at 10 a.m. on Diamond 1 inside Rogers Park for the state title.
Sweet, who has made the all-tournament team each of the past four years, bunted in the game-winning run in the eighth. After striking out twice in her previous three at-bats, the future University of Iowa Hawkeye wasn't about to let this opportunity pass her by.
"I knew I just had to get the bunt down," Sweet said. "I was a little down after striking out twice before, and I knew a hit would do it."
Martensdale-St. Mary's 2,
Charter Oak-Ute 1 (8 inn.)
Charter Oak-Ute 000 100 00 1 7 0
M-St. Mary's 000 010 01 2 8 0
Katelyn Leisinger (L, 15-9, 7 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) and Mariah Meseck; Emma Michels (W, 26-1, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and Vicki Kordick. HR CO-U: Nicole Dobernecker. 2B M-SM: Vicki Kordick. RBI CO-U: Dobernecker; M-SM: Emma Ferin, Hailey Sweet.
Martensdale-St. Mary's had lost in the state semifinals each of the past three years, and Sweet remarked that this win was "redemption for us, for the entire community; it's a big accomplishment (making it to the finals), but we want to win it all this year."
Charter Oak-Ute's (28-13) Nicole Dobernecker accounted for the lone run of the game for the Bobcats, blasting her 43rd career home run in the fourth. The senior leads the state with 20 homers on the year, and will get a final chance to add to that number today when CO-U plays for third against No. 6 Don Bosco (29-7) on Diamond 2 at 9:30 a.m.
Dobernecker finished 2-for-3, while Mariah Meseck also had two hits. Dobernecker is hitting .598, and could become just the sixth player in state history to finish the year batting over .600 with a couple of hits vs. Don Bosco.
Kylah Schumacher, who had two hits, reached on a bunt single in the eighth and went from first-to-third on a sacrifice by Katrina Devore.
M-SM head coach Todd Verwers credited an advanced scouting report with the decision to send Schumacher.
"We had heard from talking to a few people that we could use our speed to go first-to-third on a situation like that," Verwers said. "Credit these girls, because they have wanted to get back to the finals since 2008. We have been blessed to make it to state each of these past four years, but they've always wanted (to be in the finals)."
Emma Michels, a Simpson College signee, scattered seven hits and struck out three for the Blue Devils inside the circle, while her counterpart Katelyn Leisinger recorded seven strikeouts.
Charter Oak-Ute has now lost in the state semis in each of four trips to the tournament.
Verwers said that the early start time of 10 a.m. for the finals won't play an issue, adding, "We've had several tournament games this year where we played even earlier. We'll just get up an hour earlier (M-SM has played at 11 a.m. in both rounds of state) and get in our regular routine. I don't think it's going to be an issue at all."