The long ball? Check.
Small ball? Check.
The Fort Dodge softball team seemingly can do it all and the end result is another trip the Class 5A state softball title game.
The top-seeded Dodgers put up eight runs in the first two innings and made them stand as they topped Waukee 8-3 in a state semifinal Wednesday night at Rogers Park.
“The kids have put in thousands of hours. They hurt, they struggle. They know what it takes to get it done,” said Dodger Coach Andi Adams, who has guided the Dodgers to six state tournament appearance in the last seven years. “Our state T-shirts say ‘Fort Dodge vs. Everybody’ and that’s what we feel. This team is really a family.”
Fort Dodge (37-4 overall), winners of 17 straight games, will see a familiar foe in Friday’s title game.
No. 6 seed Ankeny Centennial (33-9) topped No. 2 seed Pleasant Valley 8-1 in the other semifinal.
The Dodgers went 3-1 against the Jaguars during the regular season on the way to a CIML Iowa Conference title. Their current win streak started with a sweep of the Jaguars on June 21.
Fort Dodge also beat Centennial in last year’s 5A state semifinals, 5-3, before falling to Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the championship game.
“Last year as we walked off the field, we felt the hurt,” said Adams. “That’s what we’ve used as motivation. We are going to leave everything on the field Friday night. It’s two great teams both going for the same thing.”
Fort Dodge got started just as the packed crowd was settling into the stands.
Junior Jalen Adams belted a solo home run to open the bottom of first for an early 1-0 lead. After Tory Bennett singled And Mariah Myers walked, senior Tristin Doster belted a 3-run shot to make it 4-0 after just one inning.
“I think we still had a lot of momentum from (Tuesday) night’s game,” said Doster, the all-time home run leader for the Dodgers. “We were still riding that excitement and just took the cover off the ball. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
The Dodgers went the other way in the bottom of the second, scoring four more times on a pair of hits, all with two outs.
Adams had walked and a sacrifice bunt moved courtesy runner Reese Pederson to second. Myers then singled to score a run before Doster and Martyne Lowrey walked. Maia Davis was hit by a pitch to force in a run before Chloe Wertz smacked a two-run single to make it 8-0.
All the runs actually came after Myers was given a second chance when Waukee dropped a foul ball behind first base.
“That’s what we do. We take advantage of those things,” said Coach Adams. “We’ve been on the other side of that before. We’ve been in big games so we’re used to the pressure.”
That early flurry was more than enough for Jalen Adams, who tossed a no-hitter in the quarterfinals against Bettendorf Tuesday night. She gave up nine hits and three earned runs, but the Dodgers helped her out with a lot of great defense.
In the third, after Waukee scored its first run, Tory Bennett ended the frame when she dove for a grounder and reached up to tag a runner between second and third. Bennett also ended the fifth inning by snagging a liner after Waukee had cut the lead to 8-3.
“We are just doing all the little things. Defense, offense, pitching. We are doing it all,” said Doster, who will play at the University of Iowa next year. “We’ll go into Friday with a lot of confidence.”
Waukee, which lost in the quarterfinals last year after finishing second in 2019, didn’t go away quietly.
In the third, Claire Fossell doubled and scored on a single from Reagan Bartholomew. Fossell doubled in the fifth as well and scored on a two-run double from Heidi Wheeler, which also plated Bartholomew.
But Adams got the best of Fossell in the sixth, striking her out with a runner on to end the frame.
Adams, now 24-1, fanned six batters. She had seven strikeouts in the quarterfinals against Bettendorf.
“We are just using last year as motivation,” said Jalen Adams, who took the loss in the title game in 2020. “We know what we have to do this year.”
Fort Dodge owns wins of 4-1, 1-0 and 3-2 against Centennial. The Jaguars posted a 6-3 victory to split a twin bill on June 1.
It will be the first state softball title in school history for whichever team wins Friday night. Centennial is in the state tournament for the second time in the school’s brief history.
Fort Dodge is at state for the 17th time, including 12 times under Adam’s guidance. The Dodgers’ best finish prior to last year’s title-game appearance was a fourth-place finish in 2006.
Waukee, which has been to state 13 times, will face Pleasant Valley in the third-place game Friday night at 6 p.m., back on the Iowa Central Field.
FORT DODGE 8, WAUKEE 3
Waukee 001 020 0 — 3 8 1
Fort Dodge 440 000 x — 8 7 0
LOB–WAUKEE 6, FORT DODGE 6. ERR–Heidi Wheeler. 2B–W: Heidi Wheeler, Claire Fossell (2). HR–FD: Tristin Doster, Jalen Adams. HBP–FD: Maia Davis. SACB–FD: Tory Bennett, Maia Davis. SB–FD: Reese Pederson, Maia Davis.