WAUKEE ZONED IN

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Sarah Schaefer of Waukee pitches against Dowling Catholic during class 5A quarterfinals on Tuesday

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Sarah Schaefer of Waukee pitches against Dowling Catholic during class 5A quarterfinals on Tuesday

Sometimes, simple is better.

Especially when it comes to handling the pressures of the state softball tournament.

Top-ranked Waukee may be the odds-on-favorite to capture the Class 5A championship this week at Rogers Park, but the Warriors aren’t about to make any assumptions after what happened to them a year ago.

University of Michigan recruit Sarah Schaefer drilled a two-run homer to get things started in the first inning, then fired a complete game seven-hitter from the pitcher’s circle to lead Waukee past fellow CIML member West Des Moines Dowling on Tuesday afternoon, 3-1.

The Warriors (39-3 overall), who won the 5A state championship here in 2015, were stunned by Fort Dodge in a regional final last season and denied a return trip to state. They’re back with a vengeance this time around, playing with both confidence in the moment and the caution to not look ahead.

”We were given these wristbands that say ‘one game at a time,”’ said Schaefer, who is now 24-0 with an 0.69 earned run average. ”It sounds basic, but it’s really important for us to do that and not worry about anything other than what’s (directly in front) of us.

”It’s great to be back up here. We’re very grateful to have this opportunity again.”

Schaefer’s longball to straight-away center field came against Maroon ace Hannah Pals, and it wound up being all the run support she would need. Dowling (31-11) threatened to rally multiple times, but Schaefer and her defense — which didn’t commit a single error behind her — never flinched.

”The girls are really focused,” WHS head coach Carrie Eby said. ”They understand now the importance of having a sense of urgency, and playing to win instead of not to lose.

”We’re loose, having fun, and our confidence is at an all-time high.”

University of Minnesota recruit Hallie Ketcham had three hits for Dowling, which lost 3-0 to the Warriors in the regular-season finale for both programs earlier this month. Julia Bastian and Pals also contributed two hits, with Pals driving in the lone run for the Maroons.

Pals went the distance for Dowling, scattering five hits and striking out seven. Schaefer also drove in the other Waukee run in the third.

The Warriors will now face Cedar Rapids Kennedy (36-7) in a 5A semifinal at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The Maroons meet CIML Iowa Conference rival Johnston (36-6) on Wednesday in a consolation semifinal at Dodger Diamond.

WAUKEE 3, DOWLING 1

Waukee 201 000 0 – 3 5 0

Dowling 100 000 0 — 1 7 1

Sarah Schaefer (W, 24-0; 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) and Jalyn Yaukovitz; Hannah Pals (L, 19-7; 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) and Kaitlyn Moses. HR–W: Sarah Schaefer. SF–W: Sarah Schaefer. S–W: Logan Akason; D: Nicole Bellis. SB–W: Molly Platte, Mary Kate Gray, Delaney Taylor, Jalyn Yaukovitz, Logan Akason; D: Julia Bastian.