FORT DODGE, Iowa — Ron Ferrill and Bryan Butler possibly saw this matchup coming in June.
When top-ranked Davenport Assumption and second-ranked Louisa-Muscatine met last month at the Muskie Softball Classic, neither coach tipped his hand.
Assumption didn’t pitch Allie Timmons, an Iowa signee with a 31-0 record. L-M didn’t have Hailey Sanders in the circle, a Northern Iowa recruit with a 21-0 mark.
And there was no winner that Friday morning in Muscatine. Mother Nature intervened and the umpires halted play in the third inning.
Five weeks later, the two schools in eastern Iowa — which both hoisted state championships last summer — will settle the score in the Class 3A state title game at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“It should be a real good pitchers duel,” Ferrill said. “It’s going to come down to which team makes the least mistakes because both pitchers are going to keep the teams in check.
“It might be just one or two errors costing somebody the game.”
The Knights (40-2) are in the 3A finale for the fourth straight year. They can join Lisbon (1994-96) and Dallas Center-Grimes (2013-15) as the only programs to capture three consecutive summer softball titles.
Assumption has seven seniors on its roster, six which plan to play softball at the collegiate level.
“We like to think we have a good program, not a good team,” Ferrill said. “Any good team can make it here once or twice, but we’re constantly building to take the place of the other girls. Any time you can make it to this stage four times in a row, it is great.”
Assumption has a combination of speed and power on offense, a shutdown pitcher and a defense that has been flawless at the state tournament.
“It is definitely going to be our toughest game of the year,” Sanders said. “They’ve got the Division I athletes, speed and power. It is insane what they can throw at you.
“We have to play our game to beat them or stay close.”
The Falcons (35-4) won the program’s first state championship in 2A last summer. When the classifications were released earlier this spring, L-M bumped up to 3A by one student.
It hasn’t hindered them.
“We took it as a challenge,” L-M catcher Katie Hearn said. “It helps ease the pressure knowing you’re playing a lot bigger schools. We don’t have as many players as other schools, but we just said we’re going to try and rise up to the standard.”
Both have played demanding schedules.
Besides navigating its way through the Mississippi Athletic Conference, Assumption faced Iowa City High, Solon, Camanche and Iowa City Regina in non-conference games.
L-M saw Fort Dodge, Pleasant Valley, Muscatine, North Scott, Carlisle, North Linn, Durant and Collins-Maxwell in weekend tournaments.
The Falcons have scored 10 runs in each of their two state tournament games after pushing across just eight in three regional contests.
“We have to go in with the attitude we have nothing to lose,” Butler said. “We showed (Wednesday, a 10-2 win over West Liberty) we can respond pretty well to pressure and adversity.”
Assumption can make the case for the best four-year run in Iowa summer softball history. A victory would be three titles, a runner-up finish and 165 wins versus 11 losses.
"It just says our program is going to go the extra distance and take that extra fly ball or hit that extra ball in (batting practice)," Timmons said. "We'll do whatever it takes to get the job done."
L-M can become the first school since the five-class system was implemented in 2012 to win championships in multiple classes.
“Our bats have been working so well here,” Sanders said. “If we play like we have been playing, we can give them a run for their money.”