FORT DODGE, Iowa — About everything was going according to plan for Pleasant Valley High School’s softball team through four innings Wednesday.
Pitcher Kaitlyn Drish was hitting her spots. The defense was spot-on. The Spartans had a lead.
Then, it unraveled.
Ankeny Centennial strung together five hits, capitalized on five walks and an error and scored eight runs over the next two innings to hand fifth-ranked PV an 8-1 defeat in a Class 5A state semifinal at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“This game proved how easy it is to run with momentum,” PV outfielder Emily Wood said. “(Centennial) wasn’t necessarily the better hitting team or better fielding team, but they had momentum for the majority of the game. That was the ultimate thing to sway it on their side.
“You could tell they came out and played with no expectations. We were the (No. 2) seed and they played a little looser than we did. They were the better team today.”
Centennial, which came into the state tournament ranked 10th, has beaten third-seeded Iowa City High and second-seeded PV in the first two games here. It takes a crack at top-seeded and second-ranked Fort Dodge in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Our girls have come with the philosophy we’re going to find a way to get it done, sometimes early in the game and sometimes it takes us a little bit to go,” Centennial coach Brett Delaney said.
PV couldn’t generate much offense against Centennial’s Sam Klug.
Mara McClimon smacked a solo home run in the second inning. Otherwise, the Spartans (34-8) mustered only three hits — singles from Wood, Sophia Lindquist and Drish.
“Our bats were a little cold today,” Wood said. “We still fought to the very last pitch, but sometimes it isn’t your day.”
Klug finished with nine strikeouts, most of them coming off an effective riseball.
“Early on, we were doing a great job of laying off the riseball,” PV coach Jose Lara said. “But as it went on, we weren’t able to lay off the riseball on a 3-2 count. I know you’re protecting, but at the same time you’ve got to be able to lay off that.”
A turning point came in the fourth.
Drish led off with a single. Courtesy runner Mary Paige Withers raced all the way to third on Jessi Meyer’s sacrifice bunt. The Spartans couldn’t get her across after an infield pop out and strikeout.
PV’s offense never threatened again. Centennial’s bats started to heat up.
The Jaguars scored two runs in the fifth to snatch the lead and broke it open in a six-run sixth in which 11 hitters came to the plate.
Lara used three different pitchers — Drish, Lindquist and freshman Miah Townsend — to get through the inning.
“In the first four innings, I was feeling really good because I was hitting my spots and I had my defense behind me,” Drish said. “The other team finally started hitting gaps and got a hold of me.”
Sydney Morris finished with two hits and two RBIs for the Jaguars, who are in a championship game for the first time in program history.
PV, meanwhile, will try and salvage third place against Waukee on Friday at 6 p.m. It will be the final game for the Spartans’ senior class, which includes Wood, Lindquist and Drish.
“We all wanted to be in the state championship game, but at least we get to play on Friday, and that’s very special for our seniors and everyone else,” McClimon said. “I’ll remember this my whole life. This is different than anything else I’ve experienced with them.”
Wood said it will be emotional putting the jersey on one last time. She has been part of four state tournament teams, including three which finished in the top four.
“Five years, a lot of hours put in during the summer, that’s not easy to do as a player, coach or anybody part of this program,” Wood said. “It takes a special group of us to do it for five years.