FORT DODGE, Iowa — Ecstasy replaced heartbreak.
After having its state title hopes dashed in extra innings each of the past two years in the quarterfinals, Durant’s softball program made sure there was nothing to fret this time.
The Class 2A top-seeded and second-ranked Wildcats pieced together three multiple-run innings and 11 hits to breeze past 10th-ranked Logan-Magnolia 9-0 on Monday at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“Honestly, this is what we really needed,” senior catcher Cathy Ralfs said. “This is huge for us, a big confidence builder and will get us to relax.”
Durant (32-7) lost to Iowa City Regina 2-1 in 10 innings two years ago. It suffered an 11-inning setback to BCLUW by the same score a season ago.
With eight starters back, the Wildcats had plenty of motivation to get over the threshold in their state opener.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time,” Ralfs said. “After our regional final win, we wanted to play this game right away. We were ready for this game.”
The Wildcats had contributions throughout the lineup.
Durant had at least one hit from eight of the nine spots in its order. Ralfs led the attack with three hits, including a two-run homer in the third inning to give the Wildcats a three-run cushion.
“Cathy’s home run was a big step for us,” outfielder Ruby Kappeler said. “We’ve only scored one in that first game the last couple of years, so knowing we scored more than that just helped our mindset.”
Hannah Happ registered two hits. Aubrey Werthmann and No. 9 hitter Kira Schult each knocked in three runs. The Wildcats busted the game open with a three-run fourth and two-run fifth.
Durant played loose and determined. Logan-Magnolia coach Trent Kuhl admitted his team was tight.
“These girls are familiar with this place,” Durant coach Steve Hopkins said. “All season long, their demeanor, their drive and their focus has been unlike any team I’ve ever had.
“We had a sour taste in our mouth the last couple of years. They’re up here to prove a point.”
Sophomore Kamryn Meyer yielded just two hits and one walk in six innings to collect the win. Logan-Magnolia (31-4) stranded leadoff hitter Kylan Straight at third base in the opening inning and had only one other runner in scoring position the remainder of the contest.
Meyer finished with eight strikeouts, five in her last two innings of work.
“My release point was off in the first couple of innings,” Meyer said. “Once I found it, it was great.”
Meyer also had some nice defense behind her. Kappeler made a diving grab in center field to rob a hit in the fourth inning. Happ made a nifty play on a short chopper a hitter later.
It was the first time Logan-Magnolia had been shutout this season. The Panthers came in hitting .394 and had tallied 25 runs in three regional games.
“Fortunately for us, we were able to hit our spots and keep them off balance,” Hopkins said. “(Kamryn) was moving the ball in and out and up in the zone, and our defense made plays. They weren’t able to generate any momentum on the offensive end.”
Nobody has against Durant in the postseason.
The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 39-1 in the playoffs. Next up is a semifinal showdown with River Valley Conference rival Iowa City Regina on Thursday at 3 p.m. Durant swept Regina 8-1 and 2-1 during the regular season.
“Honestly, our confidence right now is through the roof,” Ralfs said. “I’ve never played for a team that’s more driven than this team is for one goal. That intensity through every game we’ve played in the postseason has been incredible.”
Durant 9, Logan-Magnolia 0
Abbie Carlson, Reanna Rife (5) and Dani Gochenour, Megan Dunn (5). Kamryn Meyer, Jenna Lawson (7) and Cathy Ralfs. WP — Meyer (20-2). LP — Carlson (28-4). Two or more hits — Logan-Magnolia, Rife; Durant, Ralfs 3, Hannah Happ. 2B — Durant, Happ, Kira Schult. HR — Durant, Ralfs. RBI — Durant, Aubrey Werthmann 3, Schult 3, Ralfs 2, Ruby Kappeler.
Records: Logan-Mangolia 31-4; Durant 32-7