FORT DODGE — Dallas Center-Grimes completed its climb to the top on July 26, capturing the Class 4A state championship with a 5-2 victory over Carlisle.
The championship, the first for a girls’ team at DC-G, came a year after the Fillies finished second at state, and two years after they claimed third following a consolation win against Carlisle.
"We were thinking three, two, one, let’s go get them this year," said Paige Lowary, who was named the Class 4A all-tournament team captain after striking out 16 and allowing just 10 hits in 21 innings over three games. "The thing that made it different this year was that we didn’t hope to win, we knew we were going to win. We had that confidence."
With the wind whipping in from left field, DC-G staked itself to a short-lived two-run lead in the first inning. The team loaded the bases on a bunt single by Brooke Kramer, a double by Macey Wolfe and a walk by Tabitha Taylor. Taylor Draisey followed with a run-scoring single and Rachel Lowary added a sacrifice fly.
Carlisle answered in the second. After recording back-to-back walks, the Wildcats tied the game on a two-out triple by Shyanne Dubois.
"It honestly didn’t surprise me because Carlisle’s a great team and they always stick in there," Draisey said. "But we had such faith in our team and our bats that we knew we’d be able to pull through in the end."
The Fillies retook the lead and widened it over the next three innings. Paige Lowary ripped an RBI single in the second, Brooke Kramer added one in the fourth after Selena Nolte went from first to third on a wild pitch, and Allie O’Brien scored Draisey with a double in the fifth.
"When you’re playing Carlisle, you know there’s no number of runs that’s enough," DC-G coach Steve Schlafke said of the Wildcats, who overcame a seven-run deficit to win their semifinal game. "You just have to keep battling and trying to add to it."
Paige Lowary gave up four hits, four walks and struck out two. One of those strikeouts came on the last batter of the game, and of all things, a changeup.
The Fillies reached the championship game by beating Indianola 10-3 on July 25, avenging a 1-0 loss to the Indians in the 2012 championship game. Dani Heritage was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, O’Brien had two hits and scored three runs, and Draisey, Rachel Lowary, Paige Lowary and Kramer all had two-hit games. Paige Lowary struck out three and allowed three runs on six hits.
Besides Paige Lowary, Draisey, Kramer and Heritage were also named to the all-tournament team. Draisey hit .500 (5-for-10) for the week and drove in four, Kramer hit .455 (.5-for-11) and scored three runs, and Heritage hit .400 (4-for-10) with five RBIs.
The Raccoon River Conference fared well in Fort Dodge, with four state qualifiers, and three — DC-G, Carlisle and Bondurant-Farrar — reaching championship games. B-F won the Class 3A title.
The Fillies have come a long way over the past three seasons. Since beating Carlisle in the third-place game in 2011, the team has gone 73-11 with two championship-game appearances.
"We were so young when we got third place, and getting third at that age was incredible," Draisey said. "Everyone’s just grown so much since then: mentally, physically, emotionally even. We had great confidence in ourselves this year and it’s just great."
The championship was Schlafke’s first in more than three decades of coaching. He is 13 wins away from 1,100 in his career, and has a 301-135 mark at DC-G.
"Your ultimate goal is to (win a state title), but also to get kids, teach them how to be good players and to be good people," he said. "I’ve got great kids. They’re feisty and they’re great individuals. We’ve got a lot of personalities and that’s what makes the team so great."
The Fillies lose only one senior starter, Wolfe, to graduation. The wealth of returning talent is sure to give the team a leg up next year in defense of its title.
"It’s a continuous incentive," Schalfke said of the team’s three straight appearances. "Once you’re third, you want to get better. Once you’re second, you want to be better. Once you’re first, you want to repeat."
"It’s such an amazing feeling," Draisey added. "We put so much effort into this, it’s just really great.
"We have so many different personalities that just mix so well, and it was a perfect team to be on."