Predictions and 5 storylines to watch at the 2022 Iowa state softball tournament

Joe Randleman
Des Moines Register

The state softball tournament takes place Monday through Friday at the Harlan and Hazel Rodgers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. It will be an action-packed five days of competition, ending with the crowning of state champions in five different classes.

The tournament will have several familiar faces with last year's Class 5A, 3A, 2A and 1A champions all returning to defend their titles. It also features underdog stories such as Ballard entering the 3A field with a losing record and phenomenal individual talent like Iowa recruit Jalen Adams of Fort Dodge.

Here's a look at the top storylines in each class along with a prediction for each state champion.

Fort Dodge's Jalen Adams celebrates her double during the Class 5A state softball championship between Ankeny Centennial and Fort Dodge, on Friday, July 23, 2021, in Fort Dodge. Fort Dodge won the game 2-0.

Class 5A

Adams, Dodgers looking for an encore: Fort Dodge (35-6) enters this year's state tournament a little less experienced than last year's juggernaut that finished 38-4 and mowed through the 5A competition on its way to the championship.

But with Adams back in the circle and several freshmen coming on, the Dodgers are fully capable of defending their title. Adams has been sensational in her final year, sporting a 21-3 record with an 0.65 ERA on the mound and a .496 batting average with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. 

Home run derby: The 5A quarterfinals will feature a matchup of the top two power hitters in 5A when fourth seed West Des Moines Valley (26-13) takes on fifth seed Southeast Polk (25-12) at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Southeast Polk junior Sydney Potter leads 5A in long balls with 16. Valley's Gianna Lara is right behind Potter with 14 homers.

Don't count out Waukee Northwest: Waukee Northwest will be looking to join Collins-Maxwell (2018) as a recent school to win a state title in its first year as a program.

The Wolves (32-7) are the third seed, but they actually edged out Fort Dodge for the CIML Iowa title by half a game. The two teams split four games during the season.

Projected winner: Fort Dodge.

Winterset's Jena Young cheers from the dugout during the Girls State Softball Tournament semifinal game between Winterset and Dallas Center-Grimes on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Fort Dodge.

Class 4A

New champions: There will be a new champion in 4A this year with last season's champion Western Dubuque failing to make the field.

Winterset, the 2020 4A state champion, is the favorite heading into a very competitive field. But it won't be easy for the Huskies with the other five teams ranked in the top six (Adel-Desoto-Minburn,  Dallas Center-Grimes, Norwalk and Carlisle) all in Fort Dodge.

RRC and Little Hawkeye dominance: The Raccoon River Conference has had a team play in a state championship game at state every year since 2007, winning eight championships.

In addition to Winterset the RRC will also have second seed ADM (32-4) and fifth seed Carlisle (27-10) in this year's 4A field.

The Little Hawkeye Conference will be equally represented in 4A. Third seed DCG, fourth seed Norwalk and sixth seed Indianola are all in the field, with DCG and Indianola playing each other in the quarterfinals Monday.

Young's brilliance: Jenna Young gives Winterset the top offensive weapon in 4A.

Young leads 4A in batting average (.631), home runs (20) and RBIs (53). Her home run total is the most in the entire state.

Projected winner: Dallas Center-Grimes.

Ballard's Sam Vetter celebrates with pitcher Brooklyn Baumgardner after a score against Central Springs June 3 in Huxley.

Class 3A

Title game rematch?: Davenport Assumption defeated Mount Vernon in last year's 3A championship game by a 10-5 score.

This year Mount Vernon enters state as the top seed in 3A with a 33-4 record. The Mustangs feature great depth with four players hitting over .400, five who have driven in at least 23 runs and four who have scored at least 30 times plus a great pitcher in Jenna Sprague (24-2, 0.85 ERA).

Assumption brings back pitcher Bella Nigey (22-3, 0.75) and offensive standouts Sydney Rowe (.525 average, eight homers, 50 RBIs) and Jessie Wardlow (.485, 59 runs, 39 steals).

Watch out for Saydel: Saydel is making its second state tournament appearance and first since 2007.

The Eagles, seeded fourth, are 31-4 and winners of the Heart of Iowa Conference. They have an outstanding pitcher in junior Dakota Lake (29-4, 0.68, 394 strikeouts) and six regulars hitting over .300.

Underdog fever: Perhaps the two biggest underdog stories of the state tournament reside in 3A.

Ballard is the only team in the tournament with a losing record at 16-20. But the Bombers, who played one of the toughest schedules in the state, are on a roll after outscoring their three regional foes by a combined score of 26-2, including an 8-1 win over No. 4 West Liberty in the regional finals.

Even though Ballard has a losing record, the Bombers aren't the lowest seed in 3A. That distinction belongs to eighth seed Dubuque Wahlert.

Wahlert enters state at 23-16. The Golden Eagles were swept by Cedar Falls in a doubleheader to end the regular season, then took down Waukon, Crestwood and West Delaware to reach state for only the second time, with their other appearance coming in 2009.

Projected winner: Davenport Assumption.

Class 2A

Top dogs: Central Springs enters state on roll as the top team in 2A.

The Panthers are 31-1, with their only loss coming to ranked 5A school in Ames. They have been blowing away their competition, outscoring opposing teams 316-51.

During regional play Central Springs outscored Emmetsburg, Lake Mills and Osage by a combined score of 32-0.

Central Springs ace Cooper Klaahsen is undefeated at 23-0 and she has an ERA of 0.57 with 225 strikeouts in just 136 innings. The Panthers are hitting over .400 as a team offensively, led by senior Kaylea Fessler (.550, eight homers, 45 RBIs).

Panther power: Though Central Springs has been the most dominant team in 2A, the Panthers aren't the team with the best record entering the tournament.

That honor belongs to third seed Logan-Magnolia, the only undefeated team entering the tournament. Like Central Springs, Logan-Magnolia also goes by the Panther nickname and it will take a 28-0 record into the tournament.

Sophomore pitcher Abby Hiatt is 25-0 with a 1.11 ERA and junior Macanna Guritz is hitting .412 with five homers and 42 RBIs for Logan-Magnolia.

Leaving their own mark: The softball team is ready to step out of the baseball program's shadow at Van Meter.

The Van Meter baseball team will be making a run at an undefeated season and its fourth straight state title next week. The softball team is capable of giving the school two state championships by the end of the week.

The Bulldog softball team is 30-9 and seeded fifth in 2A.

The Bulldogs have an elite offense led by junior Macy Blomgren, who is hitting .486 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs and is also 7-0 on the mound with an ERA of 0.54. Unlike most softball teams, Van Meter has spread out its innings on the mound with four pitchers accumulating at least 38 innings of work.

Projected winner: Central Springs.

Class 1A

Clash of the titans: Softball fans could see a matchup of two defending state champions playing for all the marbles in 1A next week.

Newell-Fonda enters the tournament as the defending 1A champion with a 35-4 record. But the Mustangs are only the second seed in 1A.

North Linn, last year's 2A champions, moved down to 1A this year and the Lynx (32-8) are the top seed entering the tournament. 

Newell-Fonda is a killer on the base paths. Macy Sievers (50), Mia Walker (34), Isabel Bartek (32) and  Mary Walker (20) all have at least 20 steals and freshman Anna Mercer is just off the mark with 19.

Kierra Jurgens is 26-4 with a 1.60 ERA as the top Mustang pitcher.

North Linn features great balance at the plate led by Ellie Flanagan (.440, five homers and 29 RBIs),  Jenna Lemley (.405, six homers, 29 RBIs) and Jill Smith (.398, eight home runs, 45 RBIs). Flanagan is 21-6 with a 1.62 ERA on the mound and freshman Kylie Munson is 12-1 with a 1.15 ERA.

Lurking in the shadows: Traditional power Lisbon could spoil the party for North Linn and Newell-Fonda.

The third-seeded Lions are 35-4 and have won nine straight. Junior Peyton Robinson is hitting .519 with 33 steals, 63 runs and 36 RBIs and veteran pitcher Ryleigh Allgood is 26-2 with an ERA of 0.62.

Speed kills: In addition to the elite base running at Newell-Fonda and with Robinson at Lisbon the 1A field also features Remsen St. Mary's Claire Schroeder.

Schroeder is hitting .573 with 63 runs and she has 57 steals in 59 chances for the fourth-seeded Hawks (27-2).

Projected winner: North Linn.