How a hot start carried Waukee Northwest past Muscatine in the 5A state softball semifinals

Joe Randleman
Des Moines Register

Waukee Northwest made sure to assert itself early and often against Muscatine in the Class 5A semifinals of the state softball tournament Wednesday at the Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.

The second-seeded Wolves erupted for four runs in the top of the first inning and coasted to a convincing 7-2 victory over the third-seeded Muskies. The victory put Waukee Northwest in the 5A state championship game against defending champions Fort Dodge in its first season as a program.

"Since the beginning, we all wanted the same goal and that was to win a state championship," Waukee pitcher Maddie Oetzmann said. "We have just always wanted this. It means everything."

Waukee Northwest's Bailie Kroll (2) and Reagan Bartholomew (17) celebrate runs scored against Muscatine during the Class 5A semifinals at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex on Wednesday in Fort Dodge.

Waukee Northwest fell to Muscatine at home by a 3-0 score July 2. They wanted to erase that memory as quickly as possible Wednesday.

They did so by putting up four runs in the top of the first inning.

"It was important to start ahead," Waukee Northwest first baseman Zuri Patterson said. "Last time we played them, we didn't start off hot and got behind early. If we started ahead,it'd give us a better chance of winning."

Patterson hit an RBI double and Kiana Carnes an RBI triple for the Wolves in the first. Haley Boyd and Ava Smith each added an RBI.

Smith also had an RBI and Patterson doubled in a three-run third inning. The early 7-0 led took all of the pressure off Oetzmann, who was brilliant on the mound for the second game in a row at the state tournament.

"It was really big," Oetzmann said of the hot start. "It got everybody up and hyped. We had a lot of confidence in ourselves."

Oetzmann held Muscatine to two hits. She had four strikeouts and just one walk following up a four-hit shutout against Linn-Mar during Monday's quarterfinals.

"It's definitely been mixing it up and keeping them on their toes," Oetzmann said. "I'm making sure I hit my spots all the time."

Eight different players got a hit for Waukee Northwest. Patterson, Carnes, Boyd and Oetzmann each went 2-for-4. Patterson and Carnes each had one run and RBI apiece and Boyd one RBI.

Smith was 1-for-3 with two RBIs and Reagan Bartholomew 1-for-3 with an RBI. Emily Klaiber was 1-for-3 with two runs and a steal and Bailie Kroll scored twice.

Muscatine's Kyle Salyars (8) attempts to tag out Waukee Northwest's Natalee Watts (18) at home plate during the Class 5A semifinals at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex on Wednesday.

The Wolves will take a 34-7 record into the 5A title game against Fort Dodge (37-6). They're looking forward to taking on the defending champs — the teams split four games during the regular season.

"We feel pretty good," Oetzmann said. "We just have to believe in ourselves and know we can do it. If we do what we know we can do it will all work itself out."

The Warriors still have something to prove.

"A lot of people have looked down on us," Patterson said. "But we're excited to play everybody. We feel like we can beat anybody we play."

Waukee Northwest and Fort Dodge will play for all the marbles at 5 p.m. Thursday on the Kruger Seed Field at Fort Dodge.

Muscatine's Brylee Seaman (21) throws out a Waukee Northwest runner at first base during the Class 5A semifinals on Wednesday.

Muscatine will take a 36-5 record into the third-place game against West Des Moines Valley (27-14) Thursday. 

Maura Chalupa gave up seven earned runs with one strikeout and two walks as the losing pitcher. Karly Ricketts singled and score, Lucy Hoag singled once and Mia Molina scored a run for Muscatine.