The similarities between last year’s regional semifinal loss and Saturday’s 5A Region 6 semifinal with Cedar Rapids Washington were starting to pile up.
From the early rain to the late-inning deficit, things seemed in an eerie step with the season-ending 7-1 loss to Davenport West last July.
“We definitely talked about how last year, we had the rain come in and we had to move it Monday,” West High senior Taylor Libby said. “Seeing it rain again, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Really, again?’ ”
The start was similar, but the ending couldn’t have been any different.
West High rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to beat Cedar Rapids Washington 6-5 and advance to Tuesday’s Region 6 final.
Fourth-ranked West High (34-5) will be seeking its second state tournament berth and first since 2012 when it hosts Ankeny (20-21) at 7 p.m.
“Going into the seventh inning, it was flashbacks happening, but I think we’re a different team this year,” Libby said. “We have a different mentality. We know we can do it, we know we can get it done. Last year, I just don’t think we had that mental toughness yet.”
West High has looked like a different team for most of the season, never more than in the seventh inning of Saturday’s come-from-behind win.
The Women of Troy didn’t record an out in the frame, as four straight West High batters reached base in the three-run inning.
Senior Grace Tafolla provided the game-winning, two-run single up the middle as West High won its eighth straight.
“Definitely, everyone you could see was a little tight the entire game, but I think honestly there is just something in everybody that believed that we would get the win,” Tafolla said. “You saw that in the seventh inning. We believed. We didn’t give up.”
The one-run game Saturday was a rare experience for a West High team that leads Class 5A in runs and averages 8.2 runs per game.
Saturday’s win was the fifth one-run game of the season for West High, which improved to 4-1 those contests.
West High leads Class 5A in team batting average at .391 and has 16 wins this season by eight or more runs.
“I think that pressure is something that we need. Every game in tournament time is going to be like that,” Libby said. “You have to find the will to survive at this point, and that is all the postseason is about, honestly.”
To return to the state tournament, West High will need to get past an Ankeny team that has endured a rugged schedule to reach the regional final.
The Hawkettes have lost 19 games to ranked teams but own wins over a trio of ranked 5A squads this season.
Ankeny is led by junior pitcher Allison Doocy, who boasts a 17-9 record and 1.51 ERA and has struck out a 5A-best 225 batters.
That total is 39 more than any other pitcher in 5A.
“Everybody is good this time of year, especially in 5A,” Lutjen said. “Everybody has a good pitcher, everybody has kids that can swing the bat. You just have to go out and play your game.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Class 5A Region 6 Final
No. 4 West High (34-5) vs. Ankeny (20-21)
• When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
• Where: West High
• Stat Leaders:West High – Taleah Smith .477 BA, 52 SB; Adara Opiola .443 BA, 52 RBI; Jessie Harder 18-4, .98 ERA, 89 K. Ankeny – Peyton Daugherty .530 BA, 30 SB; Madison Kerkove .325 BA, 35 RBI; Allison Doocy 17-9, 1.51 ERA, 225 K.
• About the Women of Troy: West High has rebounded from dropping four of six late in the regular season to win eight straight entering the regional final. The Women of Troy are averaging 9.1 runs per game during their eight-game winning streak and lead Class 5A in both runs (320) and team batting average (.391).
• About the Hawkettes: Don’t be fooled by the record, as 19 of Ankeny’s 21 losses have come at the hands of ranked opponents. Of the 19 losses to ranked foes, 14 have come to teams ranked in Class 5A. Ankeny opened the season 10-5 and has gone 10-16 since.
• What to watch: Ankeny is a different team with junior Allison Doocy in the circle. The Hawkettes are 17-9 in games that Doocy starts and 3-12 in games when she doesn’t. Doocy tossed a three-inning one-hitter in a 12-0 regional semifinal win over Cedar Falls.