FT. DODGE, IA – 2023 Iowa Girls High School State Softball Tournament. Forty teams, over five classes, earned their way into the tournament via winning their regional tournament. Although, not a Perfect Game Softball event, the rosters of those teams competing were full of familiar names of young ladies that have participated in PG events, with some earning MVP or MV-Pitching awards. In fact, after the dust settled, forty-eight of the fifty-five girls named to the All-Tournament Team, 87%, participated in Perfect Game Softball events.
N. Linn High School, making its fifth consecutive trip to the state tournament, added another championship to go with titles won in 2019 and 2021. The Lynx were led by the strong pitching performance of Ellie Flanagan (2023 Coggon, IA). The Des Moines Area CC commit, with a heavily braced knee from an injury sustained during regional play, was nearly flawless in pitching her team to the championship. Flanagan recorded 19 strikeouts in 22 innings of work, allowing only 1 earned run, and was named the captain of the 1A All-Tournament Team. Offensively, N. Linn was led by Mackenzie Bridgewater (2025 Walker, IA) and Skylar Benesh (2024 Walker, IA). Bridgewater, hitting from the left side, utilized her speed to put the ball in play and get on base with various slaps and bunts. Benesh, a University of Northern Iowa commit, put on a power display in the championship game, going 3 for 4 with two bombs, to finish the season with 14 round trippers. Both young ladies were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Iowa City Regina is no stranger to Ft. Dodge, as they were making their 8th appearance at the state tournament over the past 11 years, and they were the defending state champions. LHP, Ashley Webb (2023 Tiffin, IA), put her team on her back and went to work. Webb tossed 20 innings, struck out 21 hitters and finished with a 1.78 ERA. The Ferris State commit, was named the 2A All-Tournament Team captain, in earning a second consecutive state championship. Dani Laughlin (2023 Riverside, IA) and Courtney Kessler (2023 West Branch, IA) supported Webb with some offense to push runs across the plate. Laughlin, a Texas State commit, came into the tournament hitting .600 and finished the tournament going 6 for 11, earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Kessler, a Minnesota State commit, closed out her high school career going 7 for 10, which included a 4 for 4, 6 rbi performance in the semi-finals to help her earn an All-Tournament Team selection.
Williamsburg, making their fourth straight appearance in Ft. Dodge, made it look easy, only allowing one earned run while putting 23 on the board as they marched through the bracket. Earning the captains spot on the 3A All-Tournament Team was Indian Hills CC commit, Jenna Thrum (2023 Williamsburg, IA) Thrum, working behind the plate, showed good glove work and leadership. At the plate, Thrum finished hitting at a .500 clip and knocked in seven. In the circle, Peyton Driscoll (2023 Williamsburg, IA) dominated. The Kirkwood CC commit worked 20 innings, struck out 23 and only allowed the one run, seldom having a pitch barreled up during the week. Driscoll was an All-Tournament Team selection.
Winterset, riding an emotional boost with the return of 2023 Gatorade Player of the Year, Jenna Young (2023 Winterset, IA), who had missed the entire season with a knee injury, repeated as they had won the championship in 2022. Young, a University of Iowa commit, was cleared to play just prior to the state tournament. Young, playing with a noticeable limp, filled the DP spot in the line up and went 5 for 12 with a key two run tank in their semi-final win. Brynn Acton (2025 Winterset, IA), showed the ability to get outs as a pitch to contact type pitcher. In a pitching platoon system utilized by Winterset, Acton worked 13 innings, striking out 7 and was named the 4A All-Tournament Team captain. Molly Breeding (2024 Winterset, IA) showed she could handle the bat, earning All-Tournament Team selection after going 6 for 11 in helping Winterset to the state championship.
Ankeny Centennial came into the state tournament with the #1 ranking, and they showed why. In their 3 games, the Jaguars outscored their opponents 29 to 2, behind solid pitching, good defense and consistent hitting. Mackenzie James (2023 Ankeny, IA), an All-Tournament Team selection and Simpson College commit, hitting in the lead-off spot, was able to get on base. James went 7 for 12, with 2 doubles to set up scoring opportunities for those following her in the order. Jordyn Kennedy (2026 Ankeny, IA) was one of those taking advantage of James getting on base. Kennedy came into the tournament with 10 homeruns on the season and added two more on her way to being named the 5A All-Tournament Team captain. Kennedy, with a strong athletic build, showed the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, as opposing pitchers tried to pitch around her, even awarding a couple intentional walks. In the circle, Lauren Gustofson (2023 Ankeny, IA) held down opposing hitters with the ability to throw all her pitches for strikes and hit spots. The uncommitted Gustofson, in 14 innings of work, allowed one earned run while sitting down 13 batters via strikeout in earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Lauren Sandholm (2027 Ankeny, IA) Went 13-1 for Ankeny Centennial in the tough CIML Conference, which had five teams qualify for the state tournament.
Neela Applegate (2025 Earlham, IA) was thrusted into the starting SS role at Winterset, after a season missing injury to her teammate. All Applegate did was lead the team in hitting, with a .459 average, and took care of the ball on defense with solid glove work.
Nyah Hulbert (2025 Norwalk, IA) The LHH, lead Norwalk in hitting during the regular season with a .353 average and stole 21 bases. Hulbert shows potential to be a high average, with power type hitter as she progresses.
Hope Alstott (2027 Ft. Dodge, IA) hitting lead-off, does her job well. Alstott finished the regular season hitting .436 and only struck out 4 times in 110 plate appearances. Alstott, also picked up at least one hit in each state tournament game for Ft. Dodge.
Rylee Yager (2025 Estherville, IA) is an athletic two-way player for Estherville Lincoln Central, who averaged 2 strikeouts per inning, working 92 innings and striking out 187 batters during the regular season. At the plate, hitting from the left side, Yager hit .505 primarily utilizing a slap/bunt approach, and also picked up 25 stolen bases.
Julia Roth (2026 Dubuque, IA) is a two-way player for Dubuque Wahlert that finished the regular season hitting .504 and had a pitching record of 13-3, on her way to being named Mississippi Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year.
- Dave Durbala -