SPECIAL BOND

Dodgers end season with dramatic 10-inning victory

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge’s Bre Tjebben (left) and Loghen Schnetzer (17) celebrate with their team after defeating Dubuque Hempstead during a Class 5A consolation game on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Diamond inside Rogers Park. The Dodgers prevailed, 8-6 in 10 innings, on a two-run Schnetzer walk-off home run. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

She held it together for as long as she could, but by the time Loghen Schnetzer rounded third base and headed toward home — her teammates cheering, yelling and crying themselves while awaiting her arrival — the tears started to flow.

“It was a really emotional moment, because I started thinking about everything all at once,” Schnetzer said after her walk-off two-run homer ended a 10-inning Class 5A consolation rollercoaster ride in Fort Dodge’s favor at 8-6 over Dubuque Hempstead on Wednesday afternoon. “I knew it was in the (right-centerfield) gap at first, but didn’t think it had (gone over the fence).

“Once it did, I pointed to the sky. We just knew we had to do it for Dodger Denny.”

Dennis “Dodger Denny” Olson, FDSH’s staunchest supporter for decades and a close friend to the softball program, died on Monday at the age of 65. The team wore “DD” decals on their helmets this week, and had Denny’s chair sitting next to their dugout for both state tourney games in his honor.

Schnetzer’s shot capped the last of three extra-inning comebacks for the eighth-ranked FDSH (36-8 overall) against No. 10 Hempstead (31-13) on the Dodger Diamond. It wasn’t a victory in the championship round — Tuesday’s crushing extra-inning quarterfinal loss to fourth-rated Cedar Rapids Jefferson sent Andi Adams’ squad to the backside of the bracket — but if it had to end at a different time and place, senior Bre Tjebben couldn’t imagine anything better.

“We’d love to be in the semis (later Wedesday), but right now, looking at all of this (as Tjebben pointed to her teammates celebrating and taking pictures with friends and family) — it’s something we’ll always remember,” Tjebben said. “It’s just starting to hit me now that it’s over…”

Tjebben paused and wiped her eyes.

“I love them all so much. I love this so much. Right before Loghen hit the homer, (eighth-grader) Tory (Bennett) was sitting on my lap and we were saying, ‘come on, Denny. Right here.’ (Senior) Kaden (Pederson) called it, too. We were all thinking about and leaning on his spirit (during the multiple rallies).”

With the score tied at 1-1 at the end of seven innings, the International Tiebreaker rule was activated due to the IGHSAU-required time limit on the consolation contests. A runner was placed at second base with no one out at the start of each inning.

That’s when things really got interesting.

The Mustangs, who were the visitors, took leads of 2-1, 5-2 and 6-5 on the Dodgers. Down to its last out and even its last strike on multiple occasions, Fort Dodge found a way to stay alive each time until Schnetzer finally ended it in the bottom of the 10th with two outs.

Tjebben was the first to greet Schnetzer at home plate with a long hug in the middle of the celebration.

“I can’t even describe how important these seniors are to me,” Schnetzer, a sophomore, said of Tjebben and Pederson. “Both on and off the field. And not just during the season. They’re two of the biggest influences in my life. We all look up to both of them so much.”

The Dodgers looked finished so many times, yet on nearly as many occasions, were in position to walk off with the victory. Hempstead threw a runner out at home on a sacrifice fly attempt to end the eighth with the score knotted at 2, then escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation after Fort Dodge had again tied it in the ninth.

Though it took a while for the Dodgers to finally get over the hump, they never quit when momentum swung in the other direction.

“I think it just shows how big our (collective) heart is,” Pederson said. “If we needed someone to step up (all year long), we’d find a way. It’s something that we did over and over again (during the regular season).

“This was a great way to finish. Coach Adams said that this game was for the seniors, and for our last (time on the field together) to end like this … it wasn’t what we were hoping for (compared to competing for a state championship), but it’s definitely the next best thing.”

Fort Dodge finished with 10 hits to the Mustangs’ four. After a lull from the fourth inning through the seventh — the Dodgers didn’t record a single hit in that span — the bats came back to life with two hits each in the eighth, ninth and 10th frames.

“If you could perfectly encapsule this season and what these girls stand for, this is it,” Adams said. “The fight and the toughness and the tenacity we showed over and over again — even when we couldn’t get out of our own way — that’s just this group to a T.

“I’m seeing tears from tough ballplayers who don’t normally show that kind of emotion. Our assistants are crying. I’m choked up. That kind of sincerity and loyalty to each other is what got us here. Yes, we’d love to be in the (state semifinal round). Of course. But we made the most of this opportunity. Everything happens for a reason; fate works in funny ways sometimes. I’m just so proud of how far we came and what we stood for. And again, I can’t thank the fans, the families and my staff (Kenzie Alstott, Sam Edwards, Bre Drees, Molly Matthes and Michelle Willett) enough. It took everyone to get us here.”

Schnetzer’s homer was the only extra-base hit of the entire afternoon. She had an RBI single in the ninth as well, as did FDSH teammates Chloe Wertz in the second, Daphne Alstott in the eighth and Tristin Doster in the 10th.

Junior Aubrey Davis led the way with three hits. Eighth-grader Jalen Adams (19-3) worked the first five innings and the last two for the victory.

The Dodgers extended their program record for victories in the modern-schedule era — dating back to 2008 — to 36. An estimated 400 fans watched the contest less than 24 hours after a single-day state softball attendance record was set at Rogers Park, thanks in large part to FDSH fans flooding Diamond 2 during the quarterfinal round.

FORT DODGE 8, DUBUQUE HEMPSTEAD 6 (10)

Hempstead 000 100 013 1 — 6 4 1

Fort Dodge 010 000 013 3 — 8 10 2

WP–Jalen Adams (19-3; 7 IP, 4H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K). LP–Malarie Huseman (16-7; 5.1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). HR–FD: Loghen Schnetzer.

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