CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Titans and Sioux Falls Storm have met in the conference title game in each of the past four seasons.
If the Titans have any hope to make it five, they will need to dig out of an ever-increasing hole.
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FORT DODGE — She heard her teammate, and she knew.
She approached her coach, and she cried.
“I saw (Solon Coach) Jim (White in the third-base coaching box), and he was jumping up and down,” Emily Ira said. “I teared up, I was so excited.”
Ira smoked a tie-breaking grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning, and third-ranked Solon downed No. 4 Carlisle, 7-3, in a Class 4A semifinal at the state softball tournament Thursday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“I was just trying to hit a line drive,” she said. “I didn’t know for sure what happened until I saw Ali Herdliska (rounding the bases ahead of me), and she was screaming.”
The Spartans (39-2) get a shot at Paige Lowary and No. 1 Dallas Center-Grimes for the title at 4:45 p.m. Friday. The defending-champion Fillies (40-1) handled Norwalk, 9-0.
“It’s so exciting,” said Taylor Nearad, who more than made up for a couple missteps in center field with a 3-for-3 performance, scoring three times. “Last year, we didn’t make it this far. We want to go all the way.”
The game was slated to start at 5 p.m., but a rain delay of 3 hours, 13 minutes pushed it back into the evening.
“We did a lot of mental training in the vans. My wife (Erin) got the girls food,” said White, who was coaching in the semifinals for the 12th time, his first at Solon. “Finally, Mallory (Madsen) said, ‘We need to get out of here,’ so they went back to the dorms and got warmer clothes.”
The Spartans, obviously, were ready to play. They jumped in front, 2-0, in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Nearad and a sacrifice Fly by Ira.
Carlisle (34-3) took a 3-2 lead in the top of the third. The gates opened when Nearad slipped in the wet grass on a pair of fly balls.
“It wasn’t really that bad out there,” she said. “I was just in a bad part of center field. I knew I had to come back in and be ready to hit.”
Nearad led off the bottom of the third with a single and eventually scored to tie the game at 3-3. She is 7-of-8 in two games here this week.
Madsen opened the fifth with a double, then Nearad singled and Herdliska walked.
Up came Ira, and out went the ball on an 0-2 pitch, rocketed over the right-field fence.
“I was just trying to hit a line drive,” she said.
The slam boosted her week’s RBI total to nine. That tied a tournament record (with Ankeny’s Kendyl Lindaman, in 2012). And she has one more game to play.
Ira got stronger in the pitching circle as the game progressed, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters she faced.
SOLON 7, CARLISLE 3 (Class 4A State Semifinal)
Carlisle 003 000 0 — 3 6 3
Solon 201 040 x — 7 8 0
Gabby Schnathorst and Mary Grace Wachal. Emily Ira and Monika Bevans. W — Ira (23-1). L — Schnathorst (30-3). HR — Ira (4).
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