FORT DODGE — Kennedy Preston figured on a curveball, and she got it.
She really got it.
Preston hit a two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning to rescue top-ranked Carlisle, a 7-6 winner over No. 6 West Delaware in a Class 4A semifinal at the state softball tournament Wednesday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“My coaches told me all along that (Macey Kleitsch’s) curveball went to the outside of the plate, so I really hugged the plate,” Preston said. “I got one down the middle of the plate, I hit it with the center of the bat and it just flew.”
A four-time state champion (most recently in 2010), Carlisle (37-3) goes for another title at 5:45 p.m. Friday, against No. 3 North Scott (28-14).
For much of the game, it appeared the Wildcats were headed for a stress-free victory. They were leading 4-1, and pitcher Molly Hoekstra (32-1) was cruising, retiring 14 batters in a row.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Hawks (31-11) assembled a rally in the top of the sixth.
“We don’t roll over and die,” Kleitsch said. “We fight back. We just had to keep pushing.”
With one out, Ella Koloc and Kleitsch hit back-to-back infield singles. Heather Heims hit a looper to center, which was fielded on a hop and Koloc was forced out at third.
Eva Winn’s grounder was misplayed to load the bases, setting the stage for Claire Demmer, who delivered a three-run double to tie the game.
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“I didn’t want to leave runners on base,” she said. “Before I went up there, Coach (Tiffany Rave) told me she believed in me and that there wasn’t anybody she’d rather have up there.”
“Claire’s been an incredible senior leader,” Rave said. “My confidence in here at the plate is really high, and she had two big at-bats for us today.”
Demmer scored on a passed ball to give the Hawks a brief 5-4 lead, but Carlisle got even in the bottom of the sixth on Delaney Schnathorst’s RBI single.
Then, in the eighth, Demmer came through again with a sacrifice fly that plated pinch-runner Alissa Holtz.
Carlisle answered again, this time for keeps. Kennedy Prenosil singled with one out, then Preston came through with the winning blast.
“I’m disappointed in the end ... just one pitch ... but we played our hearts out,” Kleitsch said. “We put up a fight, and I’m so proud.”
She wasn’t the only one.
“We came up short, but what a great game,” Rave said. “We still celebrate this. It was a game we’ll always remember.”
The Hawks play Charles City (36-4) for third place at 4:45 Friday afternoon,
CARLISLE 7, WEST DELAWARE 6 (8 innings)
4A State Semifinal, at Fort Dodge
West Delaware 100 004 01 — 6 6 3
Carlisle 202 001 02 — 7 14 3
Macey Kleitsch and Leah Wegmann. Molly Hoekstra and Kennedy Preston. W — Hoekstra (32-1). L — Kleitsch (14-6). HR — Preston (5).
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