FORT DODGE, Iowa — When Davenport Assumption lost the coin flip to determine which school would be the home team for Monday night’s state quarterfinal, Ron Ferrill was excited.
“I’ve seen what happens when this team gets a lead,” the Assumption softball coach said. “When we can score early, it puts pressure on the other team and it relaxes us.”
Class 3A top-ranked Assumption pounced on West Marshall for three runs in the top half of the first and two more in the second in rolling to a 10-0 triumph in six innings at the Rogers Sports Complex.
The Knights extended their win streak to 42 straight and meet seventh-ranked Center Point-Urbana, a 14-2 winner over Humboldt, in a state semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Sophie VanSeveren led the game off with a single, swiped second and third. She nearly was stranded, but Emma Valainis roped a two-out double.
Freshman Carlie Sammon followed with a mammoth two-run homer to dead center.
“It was a mistake right down the middle,” Sammon said. “I just went after it and swung hard out of my shoes.”
Given Assumption (42-1) has only surrendered three runs in a game three times this season, it knew it was in a favorable position.
Drake recruit and all-state pitcher Nicole Timmons made sure it was enough.
Timmons struggled with her riseball command early but improved as the game progressed. She finished with 11 strikeouts, walked two and yielded an infield single in the sixth in moving to 23-0.
“I was pretty nervous to start because this is our last chance (to win a title),” she said. “As soon as we got those runs on the board and kept going, I got in my groove.”
Hannah Kelly came in to record the final two outs for the Knights, who have posted seven consecutive shutouts and outscored foes 38-0 in the postseason.
“Our infield and outfield work really hard and well together,” Timmons said. “It gives pitchers confidence to throw our game.”
Assumption finished with a dozen hits and stole five bases. The hits came up and down the order.
VanSeveren, Olivia Wardlow, Valainis and No. 9 hitter Emma Johnson each collected two hits. Wardlow knocked in three, including a two-run single with two outs in the second.
“Once we score first, the pressure is off us,” Valainis said. “We know if we get that first run on the board, we’re going to cruise and keep the gas pedal on them.”
The Knights also capitalized on five West Marshall (33-7) miscues, three coming in a two-run fourth. Assumption finished it with a three-run sixth, thanks to run-scoring hits from Wardlow, Hannah Kelley and a second Valainis double.
Assumption scored its first five runs with two outs. Three of them came on two-strike hits from Valainis and Sammons.
“We’ve really spent a lot of time working on our two-strike approach with different drills,” Valainis said. “We’re looking for something we can hit hard and expand our zone but still be powerful. Once we’ve done that, our percentage of two-strike hitting has really gone up.
“We saw a lot of confidence come back into our girls.”
West Marshall, which won a school-record 33 games this season, came in with four girls batting near or above .400. Pitcher Kallie Malloy was 27-2 with an ERA below 0.58.
They wasn’t lost on Ferrill.
“That was the best game we’ve played all year,” he said. “People see the score and won’t give the other team enough credit. That was a good team with a good pitcher on the mound.
“We played near flawless softball.”
The Knights face a 30-10 CPU squad that is batting better than .400 for the season and has scored 52 runs in four playoff games.
“Our coaches told us if we come with the exact same energy we did tonight and play with the exact same intensity,” Timmons said, “there is nobody in the state that can beat us.”