State Softball: Carlisle Surges Back To Beat Washington

By Jeff Linder (Story) and Scott Saville (Video), Reporters

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By Grant Burkhardt

FORT DODGE, Iowa -- It was a blur. A stunning, early avalanche of offense.

"It probably came too easy, too fast," Washington Coach Angie Shrader said.

Fourth-ranked Carlisle spotted Washington (Iowa) a seven-run lead in the first inning, then came all the way back to rally for an 11-9 Class 4A semifinal win at the state softball tournament Thursday night at the Rogers Sports Complex.

Payton Mercer hit a grand slam in the top of the sixth inning to put the Wildcats (34-7) in front for good, then they survived a last-ditch counter-rush by the Demons (30-12) in the seventh.

"When you're 6 or 7 years old and you're hitting in the cage, you dream of moments like this," Mercer said. "I don't know how to explain it. It was just perfect."

Mercer's blast put Carlisle in front, 10-7.

Washington got the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but a double play suffocated the Demons' hopes. Carlisle advances to meet No. 2 Dallas Center-Grimes (37-5) for the 4A championship at 4:45 p.m. Friday.

"Our state motto is 'BELIEVE,' and that's what we did," said freshman pitcher Gabby Schnathorst, who entered the game in relief after the Demons battered starter Shyanne Davis for seven runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Even when they were down 7-0 in a flash.

The Demons got seven hits against Davis. Maddie Bohr's leadoff double, then small-ball singles by Sammy Ellingson and Kaitlin Buchholz got the Demons on the board.

Ashley Rausch hit a two-run single to make it 3-0, then Grace Redlinger and Chayse Jaspering clubbed a pair of two-run homers to extend the bulge to 7-zip.

"We were really worked up. Our spirits were really high," Redlinger said. "We kept hitting everyone in."

Too easy, too fast, as Shrader said.

Carlisle Coach Jim Flaws inserted Schnathorst, the Demons cooled off and the Wildcats began to peck away.

"We had that (third) inning, where we let them score and get back into it," said Rausch, the Demons' pitcher. "And we weren't able to get our bats going again."

The trouble began in the third, when Taylor Davis' three-run double capped a four-run uprising and the Wildcats got within 7-4 -- and seized the momentum.

Mercer hit a run-scoring double, then Elin Landgren's sacrifice bunt made it 7-6 in the fifth and set the stage for Mercer's heroics.

A couple of hits and an error loaded the bases with two outs, then Mercer got her long drive up in the wind, and the ball cleared the center-field fence.

"I didn't think at first it was going to go out," Mercer said. "I was just hoping they wouldn't catch it."

Rausch said, "I pitched it about where I wanted it. She definitely got ahold of it. Kudos to her."

Buchholz's two-run double in the bottom of the sixth made it 10-9, then -- after an error allowed a run in the seventh -- the Demons made a final push.

Stephanie Fishback and Joni Erwin reached to start the bottom of the seventh, but Redlinger lined into a double play to put the brakes on the Demons' bid.

Washington will play Indianola (33-10) in the third-place game Friday at 3:30. The Demons finished fourth last year.

"We really wanted to be in the finals, but we'll go for third. It would be nice to finish higher than we did last year," Redlinger said.
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