FORT DODGE, Iowa — Carlisle booked its ticket into the state championship game with a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday.
North Scott secured its spot after overcoming a two-run deficit in the late innings for a second consecutive day.
Which team's magical run concludes with a championship coronation? The answer comes around 5:45 p.m. Friday when top-ranked Carlisle and third-ranked North Scott battle for Class 4A supremacy at the Rogers Sports Complex.
"We're having so much fun right now," said North Scott junior Sam Lee, who has driven in the winning run the past two games. "This is exactly what we came here to do."
Carlisle hasn't lost in July, a string of 14 consecutive wins.
The Wildcats (37-3) ran through the Raccoon River Conference and boast a prolific offense. They have eight players hitting .357 or better, including Northern Iowa signee Alyvia DuBois (.505 average, 18 doubles, 22 steals).
Coach Jim Flaws' team has two regular-season wins over 5A state semifinalist Johnston.
It needed a home run in extra innings from Kennedy Preston on Wednesday to get past West Delaware 7-6.
"We're not too worried about them," North Scott sophomore Ryann Cheek said. "Defense wins games. We've been told that since we were 11 or 12 years old.
"If we keep our defense up the way we have been, we won't have a problem."
Pitching, defense and some late-game fortune have been North Scott's formula in the tournament trail.
The Lancers (28-14) haven't scored more than four runs in any postseason game. They haven't tallied a run until at least the sixth inning here this week.
Conversely, North Scott has allowed just four runs in the last three games — a two-run first inning to Oskaloosa and a two-run homer to Charles City in the sixth. It had just one error in the semifinal win.
Drew Lewis has worked 10 2/3 scoreless innings in two state games. Cheek struck out 11 Wednesday, and Ashlyn Shannon pitched well leading up to the state tournament.
"I can't even put into words how far we've come," outfielder Brooke Kilburg said. "We're really confident with each other right now."
That confidence comes from Hoelting.
The former Pleasant Valley standout, in her second season as coach, has instilled belief in her players with a never-give-up mentality.
"When we really need a push in the butt, she's always there to keep us amped up," Kilburg said. "We thrive on her (giving) us the energy."
The Lancers will be the visitor for the first time this postseason.
"We're more mentally prepared than a lot of other teams when we don't score right away because we've done that a lot lately, but being the visitor this time, we can't wait," Hoelting said. "One swing can do it for them."
North Scott is seeking the program's fourth state title, the first since 2002.
Asked if she thought the Lancers would be one of two teams remaining in 4A in early May, Lee admitted that seemed far-fetched.
"It was a dream, but now it is reality," she said. "Now that we're here, we're ready to take home the title."