FORT DODGE, Iowa — North Scott’s softball team sizzled early. It fizzled for one half-inning Wednesday afternoon, and top-ranked Carlisle made them pay.
Carlisle capitalized on two infield errors, two walks and cranked two home runs for a seven-run fourth inning to knock off fifth-ranked North Scott 8-3 in a Class 4A semifinal at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“We didn’t put the band aid on,” pitcher Ryann Cheek said. “We didn’t stop the bleeding. One error turned into (two). One homer turned into another. It just spiraled out of control.”
This one stung a little bit more for the Lancers than last year’s 1-0 loss to Carlisle in the finals.
North Scott (17-10) was a year older, had been dominant in its last three postseason games and jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Carlisle came to bat.
“There was a lot of baggage there from the state tournament last year, but a lot of us seniors have been on the team for three, four or five years,” catcher Sam Lee said. “That definitely makes it a little bit harder.
“That was not us today. We’re a much better team than what we showed today. It just sucks.”
Carlisle (20-3) faces 10th-ranked Winterset in the title game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. North Scott meets eighth-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes in the third-place contest at 6 o’clock Thursday.
“We knew this was going to be a hard game,” North Scott coach Holly Hoelting said, “but we did truly believe we could get to a state championship again. But even the fact this season was even possible and we can still get third, that’s a big deal.”
North Scott pounced on Carlisle starter Molly Hoekstra in the opening inning. Lee continued her red-hot state tournament with a run-scoring double. Sydney Skarich added an RBI single, and a wild pitch brought in another run.
The Lancers, not for a lack of chances, wouldn’t push another run across. They stranded multiple runners in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
“We came out right away like we should, but I don’t know what our mentality at the plate was after that,” said Lee, who was 3-for-3 and has six hits in two games here. “It wasn’t there. We did not produce at all today (after that first inning). You have to hit with runners on base.”
Carlisle, meanwhile, made Cheek work early in the game. The southpaw never had a 1-2-3 inning against the Wildcats, and they had four different batters in the first three innings foul off multiple two-strike pitches.
“Very annoying,” Cheek said. “They definitely made me work hard. I’d get two strikes and they would battle them off until I gave them what they wanted.”
An infield error started the disastrous fourth for the Lancers. Then pinch-hitter Caylin Furnal, a freshman with just 15 at-bats, launched a two-run homer to tie it.
Then another infield error, a fielder’s choice, two straight walks, a two-run single and a three-run homer off the bat of Meredith Hoffman turned it into a five-run deficit for the Lancers.
“Defensively, that was very uncharacteristic of us,” Hoelting said. “Usually in big innings (for other teams), we’ll give up two, maybe three runs.
“They’re a big strong team, and when they put the ball in play, it goes far.”
When the Lancers didn’t respond the following half-inning, Hoelting knew the tide had turned.
“It is uncharacteristic for us not to bounce back and score right away,” she said. “The shift happened when we didn’t capitalize offensively after that.”
Cheek had two hits for the Lancers, who on Thursday will try for the program’s third top-three finish at state in the past 10 years.
“For me, it is going to be tough to step on the field after this,” Cheek said. “I know last year after the (title) loss, I didn’t want to leave my bedroom for two weeks. We’re going to have to regroup as a team and figure out how to get it done.”
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