Dodgers play for state spot

One more hurdle is all that remains for the second-ranked Fort Dodge softball team.

With their first state bid since 2011 on the line, the Dodgers (33-7 overall) will host LeMars tonight in a Class 4A, Region 1 final.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Rogers Sports Complex.

“LeMars was No. 1 last year (the Bulldogs entered the postseason last summer ranked first in 4A) and still has a really good team,” FDSH head coach Andi Adams said. “At this point, everybody is going to be very hungry. They want to do the exact same thing as us.”

Winners of 14 straight games, including a 12-0 six-inning victory over Spencer in the regional semifinals on Saturday, the Dodgers lean heavily on junior Mallory Kilian (.509 BA, 59 H, 55 RBI, 30 R), senior Lexi Astor (.468 BA, 58 H, 34 R, 30 SB), junior Lani Van Zyl (.389 BA, 45 R, 44 R, 22 SB) and senior Maddie Egli (.330 BA, 37 H, 34 R, 30 RBI). Among all 4A programs, two-time defending CIC Northern Division champion Fort Dodge ranks first in sacrifices (74), fifth in stolen bases (96), sixth in runs (266), tied for ninth in RBI (212), 10th in hits (339) and 10th in team batting average (.342).

Kilian, a University of Northern Iowa recruit, set the school’s single-season home run mark earlier this summer. She is now tied with Charles City’s Mara Forsyth for the 4A lead in longballs with 13 on the year.

In the circle, Kilian owns a 17-4 record to go along with a 2.17 ERA in 122 2/3 innings of work. She has walked 62 and fanned 112.

“We went down to Ankeny two years in a row and did everything we could possibly do to try and beat that team (the Dodgers were ousted by the Hawks in a 5A regional final the previous two years),” said Adams. “We’ve literally been working so hard ever since to try and get back (to state). It all boils down to this.”

Senior Madison Heidebrink (.468 BA, 52 H, 42 RBI, 40 R), junior Janessa Milbrodt (.380 BA, 35 H, 20 RBI), junior Holly Schneider (.321 BA, 26 H, 24 RBI) and junior Kassidy Rieken (.301 BA, 34 H, 22 RBI) headline the Bulldog offensive attack.

Either Milbrodt (10-10; 113 2/3 IP, 107 H, 72 BB, 122 K, 4.19 ERA) or Rieken (9-2; 89 2/3 IP, 122 H, 24 BB, 40 K, 3.75 ERA) will receive the starting pitching assignment this evening for LeMars, which has won four of its past five games. The Bulldogs (20-16) placed second behind Spirit Lake in the Lakes Conference at 9-5.

Fort Dodge owns a 13-4 home record this season.

“It’s obviously an advantage to be able to play at home, where so many people come to support us,” Adams said. “Our girls are starving right now.”

State tournament action is set for July 21-25 at Rogers Sports Complex.