FARLEY, Iowa — Only twice did Sydney Kennedy find herself in danger in the pitching circle on Thursday night.
Both times, she went into “the zone.”
“It happens when I get nervous or in a big game, when my adrenaline just starts pumping,” Kennedy said. “I get in a zone that I just don’t worry about anything else and I just focus.”
She didn’t have much else to worry about.
Kennedy struck out 12 in a two-hitter, doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs, and Jenna Hoefler capped Western Dubuque’s big first inning with a two-run home run as the Bobcats beat Maquoketa, 5-1, in a Class 4A regional quarterfinal at Farley Park.
Western Dubuque (19-18) advanced to play at No. 6-ranked West Delaware (28-10) in Saturday’s semifinal. The teams are former WaMaC Conference rivals and have a history of meeting in the postseason.
“This year will be a little different because we haven’t faced them in conference play, but they are a very quality opponent and we’re going to have to play consistent softball,” WD coach Rachael Neal said.
The only hits Kennedy allowed came in the second inning, when a double, single and stolen base put two Cardinals in scoring position with nobody out. Kennedy responded by striking out each of the next three Maquoketa batters.
“I’m not a person to worry about the (runners on the) bases,” Kennedy said. “I actually don’t mind the pressure of bases, I like more pressure because it forces me to be better. It forces me to focus better.”
Kennedy briefly lost command to open the fourth, issuing two of her three walks to open the inning before recovering to strike out the next batter for the first out. Jenna Wiebenga laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached on a throwing error as the unearned run came across to score.
Kennedy struck out each of the next two batters to escape the threat. The only other Maquoketa batter to reach base drew a walk with two outs in the fifth inning.
“She has done an awesome job for us all year and what I was most proud of tonight was the way she stepped up in clutch situations and got the big out that we needed,” Neal said.
Western Dubuque, meanwhile, got off to a perfect start at the plate.
Sara Horsfield drew a leadoff walk in the first and Amy Kane singled, and both runners moved into scoring position on Ella Link’s foul out. Kennedy followed with a two-run double just inside the left-field line, and Hoefler blasted a no-doubt homer on the next pitch to make it 4-0.
“I was looking for it, and I got it,” Hoefler said. “This is only my second (home run) my whole high school career. I’ve had ones that felt like it (that didn’t go out), but this one felt like it.”
Kennedy lined another double into the left-field corner in the fifth. Courtesy runner Meg Besler scored on Hallie Wilgenbusch’s double off the centerfield fence.
Horsfield, Kane, Kennedy and Wilgenbusch had two hits apiece for Western Dubuque.