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FORT DODGE — The routine began in sixth grade. A hundred pitches a day, every day.
"I threw, and my dad caught," Amber Fiser said. "It could be any time of day."
Look where it got her.
Fiser struck out 19 batters — the most ever at the state tournament for a seven-inning game — and top-ranked Benton Community exploded for eight runs with two outs in the bottom of the third inning and smashed No. 2 Davenport Assumption, 8-0, for the Class 3A softball championship Friday morning at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“I’ve never been happier,” Bobcats Coach Eric Stenberg said. “I’m so excited for these kids, all of them. I can’t think of a better way for this to end to see the way all of our seniors contributed. It’s just phenomenal.”
Benton (43-2) claimed its third softball championship. The others came in 1966 and 1998.
A University of Minnesota signee, Fiser (28-2) was untouchable for the third straight game here this week. She allowed two hits in three games, including a one-hitter Friday. Her 46 strikeouts tied the record set by Amber Logemann of Earlham (2012).
“Coming back from last year, we finished what we started,” Fiser said in reference to last year’s second-place finish to Solon. “I was just thinking one pitch at a time. Assumption has some great hitters, and I had to be really careful where I put it over the plate.”
That changed after the Bobcats went bonkers in the third.
“We had a plan on how to pitch,” Stenberg said. “But at 8-0, we threw it out the window and said, ‘Just go after them.’”
And she did. After Benton took the lead, Fiser didn’t allow a baserunner.
“She was amazing like always,” Alyssa Wiebel said.
A rout appeared unlikely through the early stages of the game. It was a 0-0 deadlock with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, then chaos ensued.
Fiser fought off three two-strike pitches, and walked. Jaicee Lyons followed with another base on balls, then courtesy runners Jessie Havlik and Samantha Rabe executed a double steal.
Shelby Hulsebus drove in the first run when she hit a ground ball and first base was left unoccupied.
The Bobcats were just getting started.
“When one girl gets us going, the hits just keep coming sometimes,” Wiebel said. “It’s pretty contagious.”
Anna Stenberg’s single plated another run to make it 2-0, then Jessica Heilman walked to load the bases.
Assumption Coach Ron Ferrill lifted pitcher Nicole Timmons in favor of freshman Alli Timmons, who had pitched one inning all season.
Grace Martensen greeted her with an RBI single, then Lea Brunssen poked a three-run double to the fence that made it 6-0 and ended any drama.
Angie Gorkow’s two-run single ended the scoring and forced another pitching change.
“It was our best inning of the year,” Stenberg said. “Our game plan was to lay off the riseball, because we didn’t think (Nicole Timmons) could throw it for a strike. Then we got some runners and hit some good pitches. It all started clicking.”
An eight-run lead with Fiser in the circle was money in the bank.
The Bobcats concluded their season with 26 straight wins (22 by shutout).
“It’s bittersweet,” Wiebel said. “It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s the last time we’ll all play together. There’s no better way to end it.”
Assumption saw its 26-game win streak end. The Knights finished 41-5.
Fiser was the all-tournament captain. Three teammates (Wiebel, Hulsebus and Lyons) joined her on the 11-player honor team.
BENTON COMMUNITY 8, DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 0
Class 3A State Championship, at Fort Dodge
Davenport Assumption 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
Benton Community 008 000 x — 8 9 1
Nicole Timmons, Alli Timmons (3), Hannah Kenney (3) and Emma Valainis. Amber Fiser and Jaicee Lyons. W — Fiser (28-2). L — Timmons (21-4).
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