Few teams have more recent experience playing in the state softball tournament than Dallas Center-Grimes. The Fillies were third in 2011 and second in 2012, at which point they apparently decided they might as well go all the way, as they have with back-to-back-to-back state titles over the past three seasons.
The past two seasons the Fillies have had some connection with Perry during their route to the title. In 2014 Paige Lowary no-hit the Jayettes in Dallas Center and the Fillies needed her stellar performance, as Emma Olejniczak allowed just three hits in a 1-0 Perry loss. Last season DC-G, as in ’14, scored the lone run of the game in the sixth inning to defeat Boone, 1-0, in a game held at Perry.
If DC-G is to make a run at four straight titles, they will have to combine the results of the last two postseasons by again beating Perry, but this time do it in Perry.
And the Jayettes — ranked 15th — are not about to bow down and slink away.
“We talked about how they are going to come in here and try to intimidate us and we are not going to let that happen,” Perry head coach Tina Kenney said. “In the past we might have been real nervous and once the game started be waiting for something bad to happen. Not this group. These girls have shown the attitude that they are going to be aggressive — they are not going to sit back and let something happen, they are going to be the ones making things happen — and that is major difference I see this year.”
Kenney said the combination of experience and the growing leadership shown by seniors Victoria Hegstrom and Maddy Jans has been critical.
“I am seeing us take on roles and setting examples that are very positive,” she explained. “These girls, all of them, have worked so hard to get here. They understand they are facing a tough challenge, but they also know they can handle it. Their goal is right in front of them, and they are not scared to reach out and grab it.”
DC-G is 17-20, but, as the saying goes, ‘with an asterisk.’ Why? The Fillies have played a brutal schedule, with 16 games against Class 5A teams, many of them ranked.
They also have the luxury of having Rachel Lowary return to the pitching circle.
Lowary has battled injuries throughout the year and has pitched in only 10 games, but sports an ERA of just 0.74 with 79 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 56.2 innings. The opposition hits .160 off of her.
“We know what she throws and have been working on that quite a bit,” Kenney said. “There is no doubt she is a great pitcher, but we will not be shy and are going to be aggressive. The key for us is swinging at good pitches, and I am confident we will.”
Allie Boender has thrown the majority of innings for DC-G but is far more susceptible to damage. She has 201 strikeouts but has allowed more walks (174) than she has innings pitched (151.2) and has an ERA of 3.46.
Emma Olejniczak is, for the second consecutive season, second in 4A in total strikeouts with 274 in 198.2 frames. She has walked 68 and held opposing batters to a .157 average while sporting a 1.48 ERA.
Both teams have similar defensive numbers and have been steady in the field, but the offensive numbers heavily favor Perry, who enters the game 23-12 overall.
Perry holds edges in team average (.328 to .260), runs (216-128) and hits (300-238). The power numbers heavily favor the Jayettes, who lead in doubles (59-34), triples (7-5) and home runs (17-9). Perry has struck out 50 fewer times, drawn 21 additional walks and has stolen 61 bases to just 16 for DC-G.
Those numbers are affected to some degree by the schedule DC-G has played, but considering Perry’s conference slate in particular, the Jayettes need make no apologies.
Madison Carpenter leads DC-G with 47 hits and 10 doubles while belting five home runs and hitting .398. Lowary had 35 hits with a .574 average and Brooke Kramer has 31 hits and a .301 average, but after that the numbers dip appreciably.
Jo Diw’s 55 hits paces Perry. She has 10 double, three triples and five home runs, had driven in 28 runs, scored 43 and bats .466. Rachel Kinney (.461) has 53 hits, 12 doubles, two triples and five dingers with 33 RBIs and 29 runs while Sid Vancil (.336) leads the team with 38 RBIs on 39 hits, of which 13 are doubles and one is a home run. She has scored 26 runs.
Alyssa Kruger (.347, 33 RBIs, 29 runs) has 10 doubles and two home runs, with Hegstrom (.319, 17 RBIs) tallying 22 hits and three home runs.
Diw, Hegstrom and Vancil have all hit grand slams, with Kinney (13-of-14), Kruger (12-of-13) and Vancil (9-of-10) the lead base-stealing threats.
Kenney said she felt a fast start would be important for the Jayettes and hopes a large Perry crowd will help give her team an extra edge.
Gates open at 6 p.m. with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
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