FORT DODGE, Iowa — Speed kills.
For Western Dubuque, it has been a key ingredient for breaking a game open.
On Wednesday, it helped lead the Bobcats to the doorstep of a state championship.
Sara Horsfield and Sydney Kennedy added to their state-leading totals, and the threat of Western Dubuque baserunners forced third-ranked ADM to commit five errors as the second-ranked Bobcats rolled to an 8-1 victory in their Class 4A state semifinal at Rogers Sports Complex.
Western Dubuque, which came from behind to win for the 12th time this season and the second time in as many days, improved to 34-7.
“Maybe it’s just a thing we like to do. I don’t know why we do it to ourselves, I guess we just like pushing ourselves a little bit,” Horsfield said, laughing. “No matter how many runs they have on the board, we’re confident in each other that we can get those back.”
Now there’s just one more to get. The Bobcats will play fifth-seeded Boone (28-8) — a 4-2 victor over defending state champion and top-seeded Winterset — in Friday’s state championship game.
“We’re just proving to everybody that we deserve to be here,” Kennedy said. “We earned it. We have worked for it and now we’re just showing everybody what’s up.”
Horsfield, who entered the tournament leading the state in runs, added two more hits and scored two more runs, taking over sole possession of the state lead for hits (81). Kennedy’s 29th double of the season — also the most in the state — drove home a pair of runs in a three-run third inning that gave the Bobcats the lead for good.
But for the second straight day, WD found itself staring at an early deficit after ADM’s Addison Banse hit a solo home run to left-center field leading off the top of the third.
As it turned out, that was really all the Tigers could get off Kennedy, who struck out 10 in a four-hitter.
“As long as she’s hitting her spots, we’re good,” Bobcats coach Rex Massey said. “The name of the game is hitting spots and location, and as long as we do that, we’ll be good. The biggest number is the zero on the errors. If we don’t have any errors, we’re going to be in a lot of games.”
Hallie Wilgenbusch walked leading off the bottom of the third and Brynn Walters — again inserted into the lineup to pinch-hit for shortstop Shelby Rice — reached on a throwing error after laying down a bunt.
“I’m a broken record, we’re fast,” Massey said. “I don’t think it’s a secret now. I tried to keep it a secret as long as I could all season.
“But the important part is, we changed our game. Softball, like baseball is trying to evolve the game into home runs. Everybody wants to be a home run hitter. These kids all had to buy in from early in the offseason that we were going to change our game and we were going to use our speed to our advantage. We get on the bases, we run.”
Horsfield blasted a liner into the left-field corner to bring home the tying run, and Kennedy lined a double into the gap in right center to bring home Walters and Horsfield for a 3-1 lead.
“Once we get rolling, we get going,” Kennedy said.
In a sign that things were going the Bobcats’ way, ADM’s Kaylee Smith stung a liner straight back up the middle and into Kennedy’s glove leading off the fourth, but the force of the liner ripped the glove off Kennedy’s hand. The ball somehow stayed in the glove as it tumbled on the ground — never once touching the dirt — before Kennedy picked the ball out of her glove and fired to first for the initial out of the inning.
“I was sweaty,” Kennedy said with a laugh.
That was the first of six straight outs for Kennedy after the Bobcats took the lead. She retired 12 of the final 14 batters she faced, allowing just a sixth-inning walk and a seventh-inning single the rest of the way.
But the Bobcats weren’t done tacking on “Rex runs” — more commonly known as insurance runs.
Walters added a run-scoring single in the fourth, Maddie Heiderscheit scored on a wild pitch and Horsfield chased Walters home later in the inning with a double to the gap in left-center.
Two ADM errors and a passed ball led to two more Western Dubuque runs in the sixth.
By the time the Bobcats went to the seventh, ADM needed to score as many runs in the inning as the Bobcats have allowed in the entire postseason. The Tigers managed only one baserunner, with two outs, and she never made it to second.
Kennedy’s 10th strikeout of the game set off a celebration in the infield with a title shot clinched.
Next up: Championship Friday.
“I know a ton of people are going to come and a ton of fans are going to help us out,” Walters said. “I love this team.
“We’re going to the state championship. It feels amazing. It feels awesome.”