FORT DODGE, Iowa – Facing perhaps her team’s most important batter of the season, Sergeant Bluff-Luton pitcher Bradee Bouman did something she had never done before.
With the Warriors leading 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning, third-seeded Independence loaded the bases with no outs. Then, the senior pitcher went to work on her own team.
“When they got the bases loaded I kind of joked around with my teammates and told them, ‘Watch this, we are going to get out of this,’” Bouman said. “I kind of got them smiling and so they were like, ‘we got this, we can do this.’
“I have never (called my team together) before and I have no idea what made me do it. Maybe we can take a deep breath and know we can get out of it and it worked.”
The sixth-seeded Warriors responded with a pop out, a ground out and a flyout to get out of the inning unscathed. SB-L went on to pull out the 3-2 victory at the Class 4A Iowa Girls High School State Softball Championships at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex on Tuesday.
“The girls kept battling and we started the game on fire and were real aggressive, and I think being down here last year afforded us that opportunity,” said SB-L coach Tom Prince, who is in his final season leading the team. “They had not been here and I don’t care who you are, there are some nerves that first inning.
“Someone has to come out on top and we were lucky enough to get a run there late.”
SB-L, which went 0-3 at the state tournament last year, is now on to the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
The Warriors used their experience to strike for two runs in the top of the first inning as Emma Christensen began the game with a single, stole second base, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. Chloe Black, who had two of her team’s seven hits in the game, reached base on a walk and also stole second before moving to third on an error. Kenzie Foley’s bunt would bring home Black to increase the early lead.
“We were planning on being aggressive because (Independence pitcher) Mackenzie Hupke doesn’t walk anybody,” Prince said. “She had 26 walks in 170-some innings so she is around the plate and you have to go up there swinging.”
From there, Bouman and her defense dodged one good Independence scoring opportunity after another. The Mustangs had runners on second and third in the first inning, the bases-loaded in the third and another opportunity to score in the seventh inning, only to come up empty each time.
Independence would tie the game at 2-all in the fourth inning as Mary Puffett led off reaching on an error before back-to-back bunts advanced her to third and gave the Mustangs runners on the corners with two outs. Abby Davis singled up the middle to drive in both runs.
Hupke would settle in after the first inning and allow just one hit over the next four innings. The Warriors would break the tie in the sixth inning as Black led off the frame with a single and stole second base before Madelyn Mogensen drove her in with a single with the eventual winning run.
It was far from a clean game as the two teams combined to commit eight errors, but the Warriors used their speed on the bases to give themselves opportunities with six steals.
Independence (34-7) had a chance to tie the game in the seventh as Lydia Butters began with a single and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. However, a double play ended the game as Allie Jo Zieser hit a fly ball to right that was caught by Taylor Brown only to see Butters leave the base too early.
The relay throw sailed past third base, but the ball made its way to second base in time to cut down Butters for the win.
“She left early and I was screaming probably as loud as I have ever screamed to Taylor and then Cassidy (Kascht) got it and finally we got it to Kenzie,” said Bouman, who did not give up an earned run on six hits with one walk and one strikeout. “It was a great play and it was a great team win. I am really, incredibly proud of my team. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
It is an impressive showing for a team that was 11-8 at one point in the season but has now won seven in a row.
“We weren’t supposed to beat Denison-Schleswig (in the regional) final,” Bouman said. “We kind of like that because the pressure is all on them. We can just show up and play to win.
“I think our last game before regionals we played Carroll and our bats really started to go and it was a great all-around win. We always say if we can hit we can find a way to win. I think it all started to come together from that and was a big turning point.”
This is a different semifinal for the Warriors who last played in the final four in 2013 when they lost in heartbreaking fashion to Bondurant-Farrar 3-2. SB-L (24-13) will face seventh-seeded Des Moines Hoover, which upset second-seeded Charles City 7-2. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“We were the favorite then, now we are the underdog,” Prince said.