Johnston crowned 5A champions

Brooke Wilmes is only a freshman, but that doesn’t mean she’s about to shy away from the big stage.

Wilmes helped push Johnston (37-3) to a state title, going wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in Class 5A.

The Dragons knocked off No. 3 Southeast Polk (30-10) by a comfortable 10-2 margin to win the school’s first state championship since 2009.

Johnston finished second last season to Dowling.

“It’s tough to put into words,” said Johnston head coach Todd Merical. “To start the season as the preseason No. 1 and finish No. 1, you can’t say enough about these girls.”

Wilmes, who scored the winning run in the eighth inning against the Maroons on Thursday night, came up with the big hit again, blasting a grand slam, chasing Ram starter Hannah Parker (19-4), a Western Kentucky signee, after one and one-thirds inning of work.

“I just have the goal of pulling through for my teammates,” Wilmes said. “I love to be in big situations to have the chance to help my team.”

Wilmes, who was named the all-tournament captain, finished the contest, 2-for-2 with four runs and five RBI. Even more impressive was her tournament totals: 7-for-11 with eight RBI and eight runs scored.

“I’m just crying tears of joy right now,” said Wilmes. “It’s amazing to win the state title.”

Wilmes, whose sisters Abby and Bailey also played in the state tournament for the Dragons, is 10-for-20 with 10 runs and 11 RBI in two seasons at state inside Rogers Park.

It wasn’t an easy run for the Dragons this week, as they had two come-from-behind victories in their opening games. They trailed Waukee 5-1 before winning 12-6, and were behind 1-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth against West Des?Moines Dowling in the semifinals.

“These girls are resilient,” Merical said. “We trailed in our first two games and to jump out in front in this game is what we needed.

“We just had to fight for it.”

Brooke Sandstoe, who also landed on the all-tournament team, was 2-for-2 with two runs. Stanzy Snyder was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The bottom three hitters in the Dragons order – Ellen Espeland, Madison Thilges and Sandstoe – scored six of the 10 runs and had four of the teams nine hits.

Lauren and Madison Thilges, who are the daughters for Fort Dodge Senior High graduates Denny Thilges and Amy (Reiners), had one hit, two runs and an RBI combined.

Dragon sophomore Haylee Towers (25-0) allowed only four hits, while striking out three.

For Southeast Polk, Kali Lange finished 2-for-3, including a double and a run. Kenzie Hilzer and Markee Brown both drove in runs to lead the Rams.