FORT DODGE — The championship drive has ended. But progress continues.
West Des Moines Valley pitcher Haley Gatica scattered four hits, and the eighth-ranked Tigers held off No. 6 Iowa City High, 4-2, in a Class 5A semifinal at the state softball tournament Wednesday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“I had a lot of trust in our defense, and a lot of trust in our pitch-calling,” Gatica said. “I think we did a good job of jamming them.”
Gatica (17-4) struck out only two batters, but succeeded in keeping the prolific Little Hawks in the park. And as a result, Valley (31-10) will face No. 1 Waukee (40-3) for the 5A championship at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Tigers will be going for their seventh title, their first since 2010.
For City High (35-8), it’s another step. The Little Hawks will face Johnston (35-9) in the third-place game at 7 p.m. Friday.
“You can’t make it to the top all at once,” City Coach Jeff Koenig said. “We were fifth last year, and maybe our next step is a third-place finish (Friday).”
Valley never trailed in this one, but victory wasn’t secure until the very end. City’s Ayana Lindsey (18 home runs this season) came to bat, representing the winning run.
“Couldn’t ask for more,” Koenig said. “I’m good with her batting there. And if they walk her, I’m good with Ella (Cook) coming up next.”
The Tigers went after Lindsey, and she grounded out to shortstop to end it.
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“We took her as any batter, pitch by pitch,” Gatica said. “We weren’t going to get ahead of ourselves.”
Gatica helped her own cause, driving in the Tigers’ first two runs — an infield single in the top of the first, a single in the third.
City High scored one in the first when Carey Koenig scored on an error, but Gatica retired 12 in a row after that.
Alex Honnold’s double in the fourth inning stretched Valley’s advantage to 4-1.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I was (in Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy),” Lindsey said. “I struggled with the strike zone a little more.
“But this was definitely another step for us. And we’re hungry for more.”
Carey Koenig said, “This will motivate me. We want to come back and win a championship before we graduate.”
The Little Hawks crept within 4-2 on Koenig’s RBI single in the sixth. Then, in the seventh, the bottom of the order gave them a chance, with Bormann reaching on an error and Makayla Ribble getting hit by a pitch with one out.
WEST DES MOINES VALLEY 4, IOWA CITY HIGH 2
5A State Semifinal, at Fort Dodge
WDM Valley 101 200 0 — 4 8 2
Iowa City High 100 001 0 — 2 4 1
Haley Gatica and Katie Newman. Ayana Lindsey and Carey Koenig. W — Gatica (17-4). L — Lindsey (20-4).
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