It was perhaps the most exciting state title game across all classes and across many years as the Waukee Warriors and the West Des Moines Valley Tigers battled it out in the Class 5A championship Friday night in Fort Dodge.
The game had everything fans on both sides could have asked for including 23 hits, 13 runs, four lead changes, and a plethora of phenomenal defensive plays. Unfortunately, in the hunt for their fourth state title, the Warriors fell in the offensive shootout by an 8-5 final. The win for the Tigers gave Valley their seventh state title in program history.
Valley would end up striking 16 hits on the night while Waukee walked away with seven total hits for the contest. While Valley had the volume of hits (second-most by a team in a state tournament game), Waukee made the most out of each hit with seven on the night.
From the word go, fans on both sides were treated to quite the offensive showcase. It began in inning number one when the Valley Tigers used three straight hits to open up the first lead of the game 1-0. As they would the majority of the game, the Warriors answered the call by plating two of their own in the bottom half of the first. All night long the Warriors used efficient means of scoring, including a two-run RBI triple by Reagan Bartholomew in her first at-bat of the game, marking her fourth triple of the year. That gave Waukee their first lead of the game and a 2-1 advantage heading into the second inning.
After Valley equalized the game with a home run to left field in the top of the second, Waukee shot right back in the bottom half of the second. Limited to just one out left in the inning, Waukee had to do their damage carefully and they sure did. Back-to-back singles by Kate Felt and Delaney Taylor set up sophomore standout Heidi Wheeler perfectly to strike a two-run, bases-clearing double which in turn gave them back the lead 4-2.
The back-and-forth action would continue on in the fourth inning as the Valley Tigers made what would be the beginning of a strong offensive surge. Despite two strong defensive plays at short and in the outfield, Valley still managed to plate a pair of runs. They tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning but this time, the Warrior comeback fell a bit short, only able to plate one run in the bottom of the fifth off Jayln Yaukovitz’s eleventh double of the season.
That did cut the Valley lead down to one (6-5) but unfortunately for the Warriors, their offense could not come up with another run. Meanwhile, Valley sent two more across the plate in the seventh, lending the score to an 8-5 mark which would stand through the end of the game.
It may not have been the win they wanted, but the Warriors did manage to suffer just one strikeout against Gatica Haley who came into the contest averaging just over four strikeouts per game. Six of the nine Warrior batters recorded at least one hit including Delaney Taylor who was the only Waukee batter with two hits on the night.
Inside the circle, Warrior head coach Carrie Eby employed the two pitcher system that has been effective all season long. Future DMACC star Molly Jacobson led things off but was pulled four batters in after giving up a walk, a triple, and a base hit. That then made way for sophomore Elly Bates as she took the reigns from then on out. The sophomore completed just under seven full innings of work and was roughed up a bit giving up six earned runs on 13 hits and three walks. On the flip side, Bates extended her strikeout total to 116 after dishing out five strikeouts against Valley.
Regardless of the loss, the Warriors still had an outstanding season which ended with a record of 40-4. On the way to their second season in ten years with 40 wins or more, Waukee led all of Class 5A in hits (518), doubles (86), and on-base percentage (.561).