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HERE THEY COME

Top-ranked Dodgers advance to state as No. 1 seed in 5A

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla The Fort Dodge softball team celebrates after defeating Sioux City North 12-0 in four innings to advance to their fifth state tournament in the last six years. For more photos, visit CU at messengernews.net

There have been regional championships in Fort Dodge’s past that sparked emotional celebrations and feelings of both accomplishment and satisfaction.

Tuesday’s state-clinching victory over Sioux City North at Rogers Park just left the top-ranked (Class 5A) Dodgers ready for the next challenge that lies ahead.

FDSH left no doubt in a 12-0, four-inning rout of the Stars, as head coach Andi Adams’ squad secured the program’s fifth tournament trip in the last six years. This one was expected for the Dodgers (26-3 overall), who also officially earned the top seed in next week’s 5A state bracket back at Rogers Park.

Fort Dodge will square off with No. 13 Bettendorf (19-6) in a quarterfinal game at 11 a.m. on Diamond 1 Monday.

Adams wanted her team to treat North (9-11) with respect, yet at the same time, consider a 2020 bid to be nothing more than a stepping stone toward bigger and better things. The Dodgers enjoyed the moment together on the field after the final out, but it was a much more methodical reaction to a regional title than in years past.

And that was by design.

“I know it maybe seemed a little anti-climactic, but our focus continues to be centered around making a run next week,” Adams said. “So we talked about taking care of business (last night) and then shifting our attention to state, instead of being too satisfied with making (the field) and getting caught up in treating that like it’s a huge accomplishment for this group.

“I don’t want anyone to take that the wrong way. We know it wasn’t any kind of foregone conclusion that we would make it back. And in a season like this (with the COVID-19 global pandemic shuttering programs all across the state after positive tests), the last thing we were going to do was take anything for granted. It was just a matter of making this ‘a’ goal instead of ‘the’ goal.”

Fort Dodge plated two runs in the first inning, four more in the second, and three in both the third and fourth to end this one early. All-state sophomore pitcher Jalen Adams fired a one-hit shutout with five strikeouts, going 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of RBI as well.

Twin sophomore sisters Malia and Martyne Lowrey both drove in two runs, and junior all-state catcher Tristin Doster scored twice, as did courtesy runner Maia Davis. Sophomore Tory Bennett knocked in a pair, and junior Chloe Wertz drilled an RBI double off the base of the wall.

The evening was epitomized, though, by an at-bat in the bottom of the fourth from sophomore third baseman Haley Wills. A perfectly-placed bunt rolled between North’s first baseman and pitcher, and by the time the ball was picked up, Wills was on second base with a run-scoring double — despite the ball never actually leaving the infield.

“It was great to see everyone on base and contributing,” Adams said. “I’ve emphasized it over and over again: for us to have a chance (at state), we need as much balance and be as relentless as possible. When you get to the bottom half of the order, that’s often the difference between winning and losing games: the production you’re able to get from there. It’s a separation indicator.”

Adams, the head coach’s daughter, improved to 18-1 on the season from the circle, lowering her earned run average to 0.57. A lead-off walk — erased by a double play — and a two-out single in the fourth were the only blemishes on the right-hander’s final statline.

Adams also raised her average to .626 at the plate this year.

The Dodgers have now qualified for state 16 times overall, with 11 trips under Adams — who has been at the school since 2001. Fort Dodge was the state tourney host in 2015, ’16, ’18 and ’19 as well.

In the last three years alone, the program has accumulated an overall record of 97-18.

A large crowd enjoyed a picture-perfect night for softball, even though the game itself only lasted a little over an hour.

“It’s just so great to see the community supporting our team like this,” Adams said. “I can’t even begin to describe how much it means to both the players and us as coaches. We’re incredibly fortunate just to have a season, let alone be in a situatio (as the No. 1 overall seed at state).

“The girls have put in the work. They’ve made the sacrifices to get to this point. This is why we do it — for each other, and to represent Fort Dodge in a positive way both on and off the field. And that’s what we’re going to do at state. We’re not the biggest team, or the most talented top to bottom. We’ve gotten this far on toughness, resilience and being one big family. Together.”

FORT DODGE 12, SIOUX CITY NORTH 0 (4)

SC North 000 0 — 0 1 5

Fort Dodge 243 3 — 12 8 0

WP–Jalen Adams (18-1; 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K). 2B–FD: Chloe Wertz, Haley Wills. S–FD: Tory Bennett, Chloe Wertz, Jalen Adams. SB–FD: Maia Davis 2, Martyne Lowrey.

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