FORT DODGE, Ia. — Dowling Catholic walked off the state softball diamond last year with big smiles and a championship trophy.
The No. 2-ranked Maroons returned Tuesday with early-game jitters before rallying to beat Pleasant Valley 4-1 in a Class 5-A quarterfinal at Rogers Sports Complex.
After four hitless innings for both teams, Dowling broke through with a three-run fifth. Anna Albaugh and Savannah Orewiler delivered run-scoring hits.
“There’s some nerves, it’s a new team, it’s different than last year’s team,” Dowling coach Matt Murillo said. “Once we scored, we relaxed a little.”
Dowling’s Claudia Farrell threw a three-hitter. Last season, she pitched the Maroons to the state championship.
She struck out nine Pleasant Valley batters Tuesday.
“It’s the best week of my life,” Farrell said.
Dowling (29-8) advanced to play Southeast Polk in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Before each game, Dowling’s players select a motto. “Every player makes mistakes” was the choice for Tuesday. The Maroons did make three errors in the game, but none of them led to a run by Pleasant Valley (30-9).
Pleasant Valley pitcher Ashley Yattoni cruised through the first four innings, retiring 10 batters during one stretch. Two Dowling reached base in the fifth inning before Albaugh singled to left field.
“It gave me the mindset that we can hit her,” Albaugh said. “Once we get going, we can’t stop.”
Orewiler followed with a single to score two more runs.
Dowling added a another run in the sixth inning. Olivia Walton singled, then Sierra Walton reached on a fielder’s choice. Julia Bastian slapped a single that scored pinch runner Megan Clair.
Pleasant Valley’s run came in the bottom of the inning. Tristen Zaruba rapped the first hit of the day off Farrell, a single. Pinch runner Kelsey Ruff later scored on Erica Miller’s single to center field.
“We just looked at ()Farrell) as any other pitcher,” Zaruba said. “She has a good riseball and changeup and we practiced on that. We just fell a little short.”
OTHER 5-A QUARTERFINALS