MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — Yes, the Durant High School softball team is heading to the Class 2A state tournament after a decisive 9-2 victory over Sumner-Fredericksburg on Monday.
Durant head coach Steve Hopkins and the Wildcats are more interested in Fort Dodge next week, when they'll get a chance at a second state title in three seasons after the win over the Cougars in a 2A regional final at Mount Vernon High School.
"Some of the girls said afterwards in the huddle, 'I can't believe I'm not more excited,'" Hopkins said. "I think the fact is that our program expects to be here [in Fort Dodge]."
The Wildcats (27-8) will open 2A state tournament play against River Valley Conference foe Iowa City Regina at 3 p.m. on July 21 in Fort Dodge.
This is the third trip to the state tournament for Durant in the last four seasons, following a third-place finish in 2012 and the school's first state title in 2013. It's the fourth state berth overall for the Wildcats.
Even for Durant sophomore Aubrey Werthmann, who was there on the championship team as an 8th grader and had three hits with two runs batted in and a double against the Cougars, it's a little bit of business as usual.
"We could get here and we knew it," Werthmann said.
The Wildcats exuded that confidence early, even when a few fielding hiccups gave the Cougars an early 2-0 lead after the top of the 2nd inning.
Durant responded with five consecutive hits to start its half of the 2nd, scoring four runs to take the lead.
Shannon Telsrow had a two-RBI double in the inning and Haleigh Carnes contributed an RBI on a groundout in addition to an RBI single by Ruby Kappeler.
More importantly, the Wildcats kept the Cougars (18-14) off the board the rest of the way. Not for lack of trying by S-F, the Cougars just couldn't get the big hit and stranded 11 total baserunners on Monday.
"The defense has been pretty solid all year and we know if we make an error, we'll pick it up and make the next play," Durant senior Courtney Ralfs said.
S-F had a runner in scoring position left on base in each of the first five innings, so Durant likely felt more comfortable once the Wildcats tacked on four more runs in the fifth inning to take a seven-run lead.
The offense was anchored by a talented trio of eighth-graders. Kamryn Meyer, Kappeler and Hannah Happ combined for six hits, three RBIs, one double and five runs scored on Monday.
"About the third inning we shook the nerves out and we just went up from there," Meyer said. "For my first year as a softball player for Durant, it's pretty awesome to go to state."
Hopkins added: "[The eighth graders] are aggressive, but they're confident, they've played ASA ball and we expect them to perform, we're not just filling holes in our lineup. … Hannah and Ruby are fast and Kamryn makes good contact, they tend to find a way to ignite things and have a fiery personality."
Thanks in part to those who are just getting started as Wildcats, Monday's win gives Courtney Ralfs, the team's only senior, another week with a team that has provided her with many great memories at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex already.
"Any game could have been my last [this postseason]," Ralfs said. "It's a dream come true to have one more week of softball and end it like this."