FORT DODGE — Today is the day for the Trojan softball team. No. 3 Fairfield hits first pitch of their Class 4A state quarterfinal around 5 p.m., when they take on sixth-seeded Dallas Center-Grimes. While nerves are always an issue on the big stage, the Trojans will be led out by three seniors who are no stranger to state action.
Drish will be making her third trip to Fort Dodge wearing the Trojan orange and black. She was just an eighth-grader on the 2016 Trojan team that made the semifinals, and returned in 2017, her freshman season.
Drish started for the Trojans in her eighth-grade year, but really broke out as a freshman, especially in the Trojans’ three games at Fort Dodge.
At the 2017 tournament, Drish went an incredible 7-for-9, including a 4-for-4 performance in a loss against Carlisle. After taking third the year before, the Trojans finished seventh after beating Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the consolation game.
The starting pitcher in that seventh place game was another member of 2017 class. Rebling, who appeared in the starting lineup for all three state games in 2017, threw five innings in the win over SB-L. She gave up five runs (three earned) and got a no decision on the mound. The Trojans rallied for three runs in the final inning to rally for a 7-5 win.
“They bring experience, and they’re good kids,” says head coach Bob Bradfield. “They both have (state) experience, and Destiny wasn’t on varsity those years, but she’s been a three-year starter for us at second base now, and she played in the state basketball tournament a couple of years ago, so she’s familiar with this kind of thing.”
Gridley, the senior second basemen, who appeared with Drish in the 2018 state basketball tournament, was a big reason the Trojans were even in the regional final last Tuesday. In Fairfield’s regional semifinal game, Gridley started the rally that turned into a 3-2 win, and made a couple of big plays in the middle infield down the stretch.
After making it to Fort Dodge in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Trojans have been knocked out in the regional final each of the last two years. In 2018, the Trojans were a sub-. 500 team going into the regional tournament, but scored a monster upset at Oskaloosa in the semifinals, storming back from a 4-0 deficit to score six runs in the last two innings for a 6-4 victory. Rebling earned the win on the mound in that game, and also finished 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
Fairfield couldn’t rekindle the magic in their regional final at Newton, however. Despite taking an early 1-0 lead, the Trojans fell 4-1 to end their season one-game short of the big dance.
The Trojans found themselves in a similar spot one-year later. Fairfield blasted Mt. Pleasant, 12-4, to move on to the regional finals but fell 3-0 against North Scott in the game to go to state.
Now, one year later, after it looked like the Trojan trio would have to miss their last year of softball due to a COVID-19 cancellation, Fairfield is back in the Class 4A bracket.
“I’m extremely thankful and grateful that, first of all, we got to have a season,” said Rebling after the regional final last Tuesday. “It’s just something that we’re really excited about, and super proud of this team, and all the hard work we’ve put in.”
Coach Bradfield, who has coached in six state tournaments already, echoed Rebling’s statements. He says he’s just glad the team could play softball this summer, after the idea of a softball season looked doubtful heading into the season.
“It would have been a shame if they didn’t get a chance to play this summer,” Bradfield said. “Even if we would have lost (the Regional final), it would have been great that we got to play.”
The Trojans will come into tonight’s game with the best record in Class 4A, sitting 24-1, and having won their last 22 games. Rebling, who will make her second-ever state tournament start, says she knows teams will be gunning for them.
“I definitely think we have a target on our back, being third in the state, but that’s great for us,” Rebling says. “We’re excited about it. Sometimes we do better under pressure.”