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Softball: Demons Still Around In State Tourney

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FORT DODGE, Iowa The Washington Demons have taken a roundabout route back to the state semifinals.

With eight starters back from a team that finished fourth last year, the Demons figured to be a serious title contender this year.

"We definitely felt so," said pitcher Ashley Rausch. "We don't always have the best days, but we're a great team."

The Demons were beyond great Tuesday, knocking off third-ranked Solon, 6-1, in a Class 4A quarterfinal.

"We had absolutely no pressure," said coach Angie Shrader. "If we lost the game, we did what everybody expected us to do everybody except the people in our dugout and the fans above us."

The final area team still standing in championship-bracket play, Washington (30-11) returns to the 4A semifinals Thursday, when it faces No. 4 Carlisle (33-7). First pitch is 5:30 p.m. at the Rogers Sports Complex.

Despite a veteran squad, Washington didn't sail through the regular season. But it did repeat as champion in the Southeast Conference. And it's peaking in the postseason.

The Demons racked up 12 hits against Solon, and Rausch shut the Spartans down with a five-hitter against a team that was hitting .436.

"Our bats have been extremely good the last couple games," Shrader said. "You really can't overlook anybody in our lineup."

Joni Erwin, the No. 6 batter in the Washington order, provided the big blow a three-run triple in the first inning that put the Demons ahead to stay. Erwin entered the game hitting a modest .280.

Carlisle advanced to the semifinals by defeating Waverly-Shell Rock, 3-1. The Wildcats are led by a pair of juniors outfielder Payton Mercer (.481, 50 RBI) and pitcher Larissa Uhl (27-5, 1.12 ERA).

No. 1 Dallas Center-Grimes (36-5) plays fifth-ranked and defending-champion Indianola (32-9) in the other 4A semifinal, at 5 p.m. The championship is at 4:45 Friday afternoon.

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