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Wait is over for Dodgers

Fort Dodge again squares off with Bettendorf in 5A quarterfinals

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla: Fort Dodge’s Tory Bennett slides into third base at Rogers Park during the regular season.

All of the eager anticipation and anxious feelings yield to the real thing here on Tuesday night, as Fort Dodge squares off with Bettendorf in a rematch of last year’s Class 5A quarterfinals at the state softball tournament.

The top-seeded Dodgers (35-4 overall) have prepared situationally in practice, poured over scouting reports, watched hours of video and even become well-versed in mental imagery. Once the game begins at 7 p.m. on Kruger Seeds Field (Diamond 1), the books are put away and the real test begins.

“We’ve done it all to get ready,” said FDSH head coach Andi Adams, who has her 12th Dodger team at state in the last 20 seasons. “But it becomes really simple at game time: you pitch, you hit, you play defense and you have fun. It’s a big moment, for sure, and we’re going to enjoy it every step of the way.”

Last summer, Fort Dodge blanked the Bulldogs 7-0 to reach the semifinal round for the first time since 2006. Jalen Adams (22-1 record, 0.61 earned run average, 193 strikeouts), who fired a two-hit shutout in that contest, will again enter the pitcher’s circle for the Dodgers on Tuesday. Coach Adams expects Bettendorf sophomore Emily Rigdon (10-5) to oppose her.

“I know what it looks like on paper and there are some similarities, but overall, they’re not the same team and neither are we,” said Adams, who won her 700th career game earlier this summer. “That was then (in 2020). It’s over. It’s done. And it means next to nothing this time around.

“(The Bulldogs) graduated five seniors and have a couple of eighth graders in their lineup now. We have different players and a lot of moving parts and new positions. You just can’t take too much away from a game that happened almost 365 days ago.”

Senior Tristin Doster, Fort Dodge’s all-time leader for career home runs, is batting .523 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. Eighth-grader Mariah Myers (.460, 7 HRs, 55 RBI), junior Tory Bennett (.456, 49 runs, 35 RBI) and Adams (.421, 4 HRs, 27 RBI) are the other main offensive threats, with senior Sophia Klinger (.423, 31 runs), junior Maia Davis (.406, 33 runs) and junior Martyne Lowrey (.374, 38 runs, 32 RBI) next in line.

The Dodgers are batting a 5A-best .415 as a squad.

Rigdon carries a .486 average with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. Senior Sophia Del Vecchio, who started as a pitcher against the Dodgers last season, is hitting .459 with 10 HRs and 44 RBI.

Bettendorf has slugged 33 total homers.

The Bulldogs (24-15) stunned top-ranked Muscatine in a regional final to advance, 7-2. Rigdon and Del Vecchio both went deep.

“They’re playing good ball, obviously,” Adams said. “You don’t fluke your way (into the quarterfinals). I don’t care what their (overall) record is, or anyone else in the field, for that matter. They’ve all earned the right to be here, and you can’t assume anything. We’re all here for a reason.”

Fort Dodge has won 29 of its last 30 games. The Dodgers have outscored their last 13 opponents by a combined 157-9 run differential, with 12 victories ending via the mercy rule and 11 by shutout.

“We’re just focusing on the things we can control — keeping loose and staying positive,” Adams said. “Honestly, I’m getting out of their way and letting them do their thing. They’ve taken ownership over this entire situation. It’s going to be a tough week, of course, but we’re physically and mentally ready.

“We can’t wait to get back on the field and see all of the fans who will be there to support us. It means an incredible amount to our program, knowing how much the community has our back. We can’t thank them enough.”

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