When No. 1 goes down before the championship round, it's considered an upset.
But to fourth-ranked (Class 4A) Indianola and pitcher Abbie Van Vleet, Thursday's 3-0 victory over top-rated and defending state champion Clear Creek-Amana was no surprise.
Indianola (30-11 overall) will meet second-rated Dallas Center-Grimes (35-5) this evening on Diamond 1 at 4:45 p.m. for the state title at Rogers Park. This is the first berth in the finals for the Indians, who finished tied for third in the CIML Central Conference.
"We play 5A schools all year," said Van Vleet, who homered and limited the high-powered Clipper attack to just three hits. "We've played (No. 1) Ankeny four times, so we know what it takes to play against these top-ranked teams. We had no fear coming into this game."
Several Indianola fans yelled and screamed that this was no upset during the post-game interviews, but on paper, Clear Creek-Amana (42-2) was the heavy-favorite. The Clippers had won two of the previous three state titles, and only lost to Ankeny this year. CC-Amana had scored 10-or-more runs in 10 of its last 13 games, including every contest in the postseason.
"I felt like we were tight," said Clipper head coach Jim White. "Even during lifting this morning, I saw a lot of tense faces. We tried to do as much as we could to relax the girls, but it seemed like nothing worked.
Indianola 3, Clear Creek-Amana 0
CC-Amana 000 000 0 0 3 0
Indianola 002 010 x 3 7 2
Maliah Fligg (L, 26-2, 3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K), Miranda Hochstetler (3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) and Cassie Downes; Abbie Van Vleet (W, 21-2, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER 2 BB, 6 K) and Kirsten Burris. HR I: Van Vleet. 2B CC-A: Mariah McKinnon; I: Ally Orwig, Sarah Chaplin. RBI I: Van Vleet.
"I knew Indianola would be tough, and when we got behind early, I was concerned. We try to schedule as many 5A schools as we can, but a lot of them don't pitch their top pitchers against us; Indianola saw a lot of quality teams, and Van Vleet did a great job keeping us off balance."
Indianola's Ally Orwig scored two runs, both on passed balls. Orwig doubled in the third, was sacrificed over, and came across home as Maliah Fligg lost a pitch in the dirty. In the fifth, Orwig singled, advanced on two grounders, and scored when Miranda Hochstetter lost a pitch.
Van Vleet sent a pitch over the fence in left in the third, and Brianna Chaplin made an incredible diving catch in center to take away at least a double by Caitlin Wnek.
"We knew there would be nothing easy about this game, but we were confident," said Van Vleet, the lone senior on the team who will attend the University of Northern Iowa in the fall.
As for what it will feel like to step on the field with a state championship hanging in the balance, Van Vleet offered up one simple word: "Awesome."
Clear Creek-Amana will take on seventh-ranked Washington (32-9) in the championship runner-up contest on Diamond 2 at 3:30 p.m.