ANKENY - Fort Dodge's next state softball tournament appearance will have to wait at least another year.
Despite giving top-ranked Ankeny a major scare, the scrappy Dodgers (20-21 overall) fell just short of pulling off a stunning upset, dropping a 1-0 decision in a Class 5A, Region 1 final Tuesday night.
Trailing by the slimmest of margins, FDSH stranded the potential tying run at second base in the top of the seventh. With their season hanging in the balance, the Dodgers failed to break through after receiving a two-out single from sophomore Madi Bodholdt and a stolen base by senior pinch runner Chelsy Krantz.
Messenger photo by Dale Wooten
Fort Dodge seniors Chelsy Krantz (4), Emily Grell (13) and Haley Rustvold hug head coach Andi Adams after the Dodgers’ 1-0 regional final loss to top-ranked Ankeny on Tuesday night.
Hawkettes' all-state hurler and University of Iowa recruit Shayla Starkenburg slammed the door on any late Fort Dodge rally with a strikeout to end the game. Only one other time did the Dodgers advance a runner into scoring position.
"I'm just so proud of our team for playing (Ankeny) like champions and going toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the state," FDSH head coach Andi Adams said. "One of (the Hawkette) assistant coaches came and told me that (last evening) was close to the best any team had played them all year, which is a great compliment.
"We have a very strong group of hard working kids that definitely wants to get back to state."
ANKENY 1, FORT DODGE 0
Fort Dodge 000 000 0-0 4 0
Ankeny 001 000 x-1 5 1
Mallory Kilian (L, 12-10; 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 2 K) and Taylor Messerly; Shayla Starkenburg (W, 28-0; 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K) and Chloe Stinman.
2B-A: Kendyl Lindaman. MH-A: Ashlie Chambers (2), Lindaman (2). SB-FD: Chelsy Krantz. LOB-FD: 5; A: 8. DP-FD: 1.
Seniors Emily Grell, Haley Rustvold and sophomore Lexi Astor all contributed singles as well for the Dodgers, who suffered a 2-0 setback to Ankeny in their earlier meeting this season.
Showing no ill-effects from a nagging right shoulder injury, Starkenburg (28-0) didn't walk a batter and fanned 12 in the complete game win. For the season, Starkenburg has now registered 201 strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings of work.
"We tried to prepare the best we could for Starkenburg (who whiffed 13 Dodgers in their previous battle) and just put the ball in play," said Adams. "She's just an amazing pitcher, though.
"It's never been about her speed as much as her movement. Every time we tried to rattle her, she just kept her composure like a Division I athlete will do."
Defending 4A state runner-up Ankeny's lone score came with two outs in the third inning, when Ashlie Chambers beat out an infield single to shortstop, allowing Emilee Dorphinghaus to race home from second ahead of the throw from first baseman Grell.
Suffering the tough-luck loss was freshman Mallory Kilian (12-10), who went the distance. She scattered five hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Three of Kilian's free passes were issued intentionally to Iowa State signee Aly Cappaert.
Kilian started a snappy 1-3 double play as well on a line drive hit by Dorphinghaus in the fifth.
"Mallory pitched a phenomenal game, and our defense also did an excellent job of making all the plays behind her," Adams said. "I just have to take my hat off to Ankeny for being such a well-coached team. They were as ready as we were."
Defensively, the Dodgers turned in several highlight-reel plays. Lani Van Zyl, a freshman shortstop, robbed the Hawkettes of another score with a diving stop to her left in the third. Sophomore left fielder Maddie Egli added a diving catch of her own earlier in the frame.
Chambers and eighth-grader Kendyl Lindaman each went 2-for-3 offensively for the two-time reigning CIML Central Conference champion Hawkettes, who left eight runners on base, including five in scoring position.
Grell, Rustvold and Krantz all wrapped up their careers on the diamond for the Dodgers.
"I feel really bad for my three seniors," said Adams. "Those kids did a tremendous job of helping this group stick together. I will always remember them and what they did for our program, including last year's (state tourney appearance)."
Making their 25th all-time state appearance, Ankeny (35-6) will clash with Marshalltown (21-21) in its 5A tournament opener Tuesday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. on Diamond 1 at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.