FORT DODGE — Sydney Sickels admitted, she didn’t know about Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s prolific offensive attack.
She just pitched. And she dominated.
A University of Illinois signee, Sickels set a Class 5A state softball tournament record with 16 strikeouts, serving up a two-hitter as third-ranked Indianola overmatched the fourth-ranked J-Hawks, 6-0, in a 5A semifinal Wednesday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game. Jefferson’s a good team,” Sickels said. “But I really didn’t know much about them (specifically). I went to my go-to pitch (a riseball) and mixed it up.”
Sickels (26-1) struck out at least two batters in every inning except the sixth, she was that good.
“The spin is crazy, how her ball moves,” Jefferson’s Hannah Markham said.
Added Lindsey Culver, who had both of the J-Hawks’ hits: “You’ve got to keep your hands down and try to cut the ball in half, but it’s incredibly hard to lay off her riseball.”
Indianola (36-3) advances to the championship game against top-ranked, defending-champion Pleasant Valley (34-7) at 8 p.m. Friday. The Spartans downed No. 5 West Des Moines Valley, 9-4.
Jefferson (35-9) will face Valley (32-10) in the third-place game at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve just got to flush this one and go out and finish strong Friday,” Culver said.
The Indians had Jefferson playing from behind throughout Wednesday’s game, bunching together three hits in the bottom of the first, then breaking it open with five runs in the sixth.
“We had a tremendous win (in the first round Tuesday against Fort Dodge), and I thought we’d have an advantage playing again today,” Jefferson Coach Brian Erbe said. “It seemed we played a little tired tonight. We didn’t have the same energy we had (Tuesday).”
Sammie Becker’s RBI single got Indianola on the board in the first inning. The Indians threatened a couple more times, but Markham gunned down would-be base stealers in the second and fifth innings.
“I didn’t think they’d run on me,” Markham said. “I heard the dugout yell, ‘Going,’ and I was ready to throw, no matter what.”
The first three Indianola batters reached in the sixth. Emma Yenger’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0, then Sickels’ three-run double with two outs was the back-breaking blow.
Culver singled in the first and seventh innings. She was the J-Hawks’ only baserunner and never advanced past first base.
INDIANOLA 6, CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON 0
Class 5A State Semifinal, at Fort Dodge
C.R. Jefferson 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Indianola 100 005 x — 6 9 0
Erica Oler and Hannah Markham. Sydney Sickels and Sammie Becker. W — Sickels (26-1). L — Oler (27-6).
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