FORT DODGE, Ia. – Carrie Embree stands with her happy teammates in a pair of state softball championship photographs in Waukee’s trophy case.
Now she can add a more recent image — as the coach of the newly-crowned Warrior title team.
Waukee survived a wild rally by defending champion Johnston and beat the Dragons 6-4 Friday in the Class 5-A state softball championship at Rogers Sports Complex.
The team photograph will join the school’s previous champions, the 1999 and 2000 squads that featured Embree. She’s been teased by some people about the pictures.
“I get that quite often,” Embree said.
Waukee (36-8) scored five runs in the first inning and added another score in the second.
That 6-0 lead would shrivel in the final innings. Johnston fought to the final out, pushing across a run in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh.
It was the type of finish that triggered a nervous laugh from Waukee pitcher Sarah Schaefer, who was named captain of the all-tournament team.
“I was joking with my teammates afterwards, ‘sorry guys, I just wanted to make it interesting,’ ” Schaefer said. “But we pulled through, my teammates really came through for me.”
Last season, Waukee placed eighth in the state tournament. The Warriors toppled No. 1 Valley in a semifinal before beating No. 2 Johnston.
“We were total underdogs,” Schaefer said.
The Dragons jumped to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Meaghan Greteman had a two-run single. Morgan Nealey, Shaye Witte and Kelli Fogt all drove in runs. Taylor Hulsing and Schaefer hit back-to-back doubles in the second inning.
“They kind of punched us in the mouth right away,” Johnston coach Todd Merical said.
Johnston pitcher Haylee Towers settled down and retired the next 18 batters in a row. Towers helped her team reach the title game for the third straight year while overcoming a foot injury.
“We’re not here without her,” Merical said. “She had a phenomenal year.”
The Dragons rallied in the late innings.
In the sixth, Brooke Sandstoe singled and later scored on an error. Sandstoe singled in a run and Ally Schaer doubled in two more in the seventh inning.
“I told (my players), they will not give up,” Embree said.
The 1-2 CIML finish continued the league’s strength at state. North Scott of Eldridge in 2002 was the last non-CIML team to win the big-school class.
“We kind of say this every year, but we have so much talent in the CIML,” Merical said. “There’s so much depth.”
Six CIML teams qualified for state. Valley was third in 5-A. Ankeny, Urbandale and Fort Dodge also reached the tournament.
Johnston’s Towers, Sandstoe and Brooke Wilmes all earned all-tournament status. So did Valley’s Mandi Roemmich and Haley Heinen and Urbandale’s Skyler Shellmyer.
Waukee’s Hulsing and Nealey joined Schaefer on the all-tournament squad.
Another title, another photograph of a state champion for Waukee.
“I’m very proud of all the hard work they put in,” Embree said.
At Fort Dodge
Waukee…510 000 0—6 8 1
Johnston…000 001 3—4 9 0
Leading hitters—W: Schaefer 2×4, 1 RBI; Nealey 1×3, 1 run, 1 RBI; Witte 1 run, 1 RBI; Greteman 1×3, 2 RBI; J: Sandstoe 2×3, 2 run, 1 RBI; Schaer 1×3, 2 RBI; Thilges 2×3, 1 run. W—Schaefer. L—Towers.
- Taylor Hulsing, Waukee
- Haylee Towers, Johnston
- Morgan Nealey, Waukee
- Brooke Sandstoe, Johnston
- Mandi Roemmich, W.D.M. Valley
- Kennedy Dighton, Cedar Rapids Jefferson
- Haley Heinen, W.D.M. Valley
- Allison Folin, Bettendorf
- Skyler Shellmyer, Urbandale
- Brooke Wilmes, Johnston
- Sarah Schaefer, Waukee (Captain)