FORT DODGE, Iowa – Louisa-Muscatine is the defending Class 2A state softball champion. Davenport Assumption is the two-time defending champ in Class 3A. Only one of these programs will still hold the distinction of state champion after Friday’s matchup in the 3A title game at 3:30 p.m. at Rogers Sports Complex.

No. 1 Assumption rolls into the title game on a 12-game winning streak, which includes a 6-0 win over No. 5 seed Columbus Catholic in the semifinals Wednesday. No. 2 Louisa-Muscatine dispatched No. 3 seed West Liberty 10-2 on the other side of the bracket.

After bumping up a class this season, the Falcons knew getting this far in Class 3A wouldn’t be easy, and senior Mallory Hohenadel called it a ‘surreal feeling.’ Louisa-Muscatine (35-4) has the smallest enrollment of any Class 3A school in the state, so the Falcons feel all of the pressure is squarely on the Knights, who are looking to become just the third program to win three straight summer softball crowns.

“The smallest 3A school in the title game,” Louisa-Muscatine coach Bryan Butler said with a smile Wednesday. “I think we’re just going to play loose and have fun.

“We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Friday will be a battle of two of the premier pitchers in the state in L-M’s Hailey Sanders (21-0) and Assumption’s Allie Timmons (31-0). Coincidentally, the last loss for both pitchers came on June 8, 2018. Butler says his team will have to lay off ‘The excessive-high stuff,’ and put hittable balls in play.

The Knights and Falcons met last month at the Muskie Softball Classic, but with a matchup in Fort Dodge in the back of both coaches’ minds, neither pushed their chips in. Assumption coach Ron Ferrill opted not to pitch Timmons and Butler didn’t pitch junior Hailey Sanders.

Play was halted in the third inning and there was no winner declared. This time, these two teams will go the distance.

The Knights (40-2) present the most challenging lineup Sanders has faced this season. Four Davenport Assumption players have six or more home runs, and five players have at least 30 RBIs. Its only two losses came to Class 5A Muscatine and Class 4A North Scott, which is also playing for a state title Friday.

“(Assumption) is a great team with a great coach,” Butler said. “It’s going to be a big stage coming in here, and playing in the title game two years in a row but on the other hand it’s just another game.”

Although the Falcons don’t possess the power the Knights do, their offense has been potent for large portions of the season. They went through a dry spell before reaching Fort Dodge, as they managed just eight runs in 21 regional innings.

Since arriving on the state’s biggest stage, the Falcons have found their offense. They’ve scored 20 runs and have 20 hits in two games this week.

“Usually teams are tight,” Butler said. “Maybe our experiences last year and all those tight games kind of prepared the kids for this year.”

No player exemplifies the recent turnaround better than senior Katie Koppe. In the nine games before the state tournament, the second baseman was 5-of-22 with one double and one RBI. In two state tournament games, she’s 3-of-7 with one double, one home run and three RBIs.

“She worked so hard,” Sanders said of Koppe. “It’s great to see all of her hard work finally pay off.”

The Falcons dealt with the pressure of being a defending state champion all season. Now, they’re playing with house money as they look to dethrone the Knights for their second consecutive state title.

“We just need to bring the same mindset we did (against West Liberty),” Sanders said. “They’re the higher seed, so they’re picked to win, but we just need to come in with a great mindset that we can beat anyone if we just play our game.”

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