FORT DODGE, Iowa — Dallas Center-Grimes junior Paige Lowary called the only blemish on her pitching line Tuesday “debatable.”
Two things were not debatable in the Class 4-A state quarterfinal between Dallas Center-Grimes and Denison-Schleswig: the pitching dominance of Lowary and the overall excellence of her team.
The second-rated Fillies posted seven early runs and Lowary fired the 48th state tournament no-hitter since 1974 in a 7-0 victory at the Rogers Sports Complex.
Making its state debut, a Denison team that had scored 19 runs in a pair of one-run regional victories put only one base runner aboard as No. 9 batter Paige Lansink drew a five-pitch walk with two outs in the top of the sixth. Lowary, a tall, powerful left-hander who will play at Missouri, retired the other 21 batters, 11 by strikeout. A speed gun used by a reporter behind the plate clocked her at 69 mph early in the game.
“She’s fantastic,” Lady Monarchs coach Kevin Dau said. “We tried to juice the machine up as high as we could for about three days. We thought we could simulate it, and when it was up here, it was even faster.”
Dallas Center-Grimes, the 4-A runner-up last year, improved to 36-5 and will play No. 5 Indianola (33-9) in Thursday’s 5 p.m. semifinal. Denison (26-13) will meet No. 7 Winterset (33-9) in Wednesday’s noon consolation semifinal, then play at 4 p.m. in either the fifth- or seventh-place game.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” Dau said. “This atmosphere, the people up here, the fans that we brought from Denison are wonderful. We didn’t quite get the job done in the first game, but we just talked as a staff and a team. We’ve still got expectations to win a couple ballgames and get fifth place.”
A combination of the Lady Monarchs’ nerves and Dallas Center’s talent had the Hawkeye Ten Conference’s lone state entry in trouble early. The Fillies sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring five runs on two hits aided by two errors and three walks.
That was plenty for Lowary. She threatened to become the 13th Iowa girl to throw a perfect game since 1974 (individual records weren’t kept from 1957 until then). But after three straight close pitches were called balls to Lansink, she grudgingly allowed her to reach on the walk.
“They were pretty debatable, but the no-hitter’s still great,” she said, “A perfect game would have been better, but whatever.”
Dallas Center-Grimes coach Steve Schlafke said his team is difficult to beat when all cylinders are firing.
“She was on fire today,” he said. “She was really focused, and the defense played solid behind her, as well.”
Schlafke said his club was able to take advantage of Denison’s early jitters by putting pressure on its defense.
“That’s the advantage of being here and knowing what to expect,” Schlafke said. “We did a really good job of being patient in the game. We took advantage of some mistakes. We took advantage of some balls that had eyes.”
After the rough start, the Lady Monarchs settled in and played well defensively. They extended several at-bats, fouling off 14 two-strike pitches in all. But the hits never came.
Dau still liked what he saw in the second half of the contest.
“We really could have quit,” he said. “And I guess as a coach and a parent and a fan of this game, I’m so proud of the kids for not. ... They could have just 10-runned us or 12-runned us, and we continued to make plays.”
Denison-Schleswig (26-13)............000 000 0 – 0 0 3
Dallas Center-Grimes (36-5)...........520 000 x – 7 8 0
W: Paige Lowary (25-2). L: Paige Lansink (16-10).