STATE SOFTBALL: Mustang bats muted by Clarke
FORT DODGE – Stringing together a trio of infield singles and a pair of run-scoring shots to the outfield, the East Marshall offense demonstrated its dynamic attack in its final at-bat Tuesday.
Though the three-run, five-hit frame represented all the scoring the Mustangs could muster against Clarke hurler Libby Bemis and a stingy Indian defense.
Held in check through most of the contest, fourth-ranked East Marshall had too much ground to close in a 6-3 quarterfinal loss to the 11th-ranked Indians in the Iowa Girls’ High School State Softball Tournament at Rogers Sports Complex.
Bermis (18-6), who entered with the second-highest strikeout total (198) in Class 3A, fanned nine batters and limited the Mustangs to just two hits through the first six innings as the Indians (27-9) built a six-run cushion before hanging on to advance to Thursday’s semifinal against 14th-ranked New Hampton (28-9).
“We had our chances. We get a base hit here, a base hit there and we put some pressure on them – we just didn’t do that.” said East Marshall coach Jary Hoskey. “(Bemis) threw well, she had us off balance – you have to give her credit. She shut our bats down, which is a rarity this season.”
The Mustangs (28-6), which entered the tourney with Class 3A’s sixth-highest scoring total (259) and an average of just under eight runs per game, struggled to get a handle on Bemis’ assortment of pitches, including a riseball, screwball and changeup.
“She had a really mean riseball,” Class 3A home run-leader Katie Roseland said of Bemis. “It was hard to see it and it looked like a strike coming in. We’re not used to seeing that and it kind of got us handcuffed for a little bit.”
Ashley Allen, who paced the Mustangs at the plate hitting 2-for-4 and driving in a pair of runs during the Mustangs’ seventh inning rally, found similar challenges at the plate.
“She was throwing off-speed and going everywhere around the plate,” Allen said. “It was really hard to catch up to it with all the movement.”
Bemis also put the finishing touches on a four-run burst with an RBI single in the sixth as the Indians sent their entire lineup to the plate to provide the necessary cushion against East Marshall’s late rally. The junior hit 2-for-4 and brought in a couple runs as the Indians did all their scoring with two outs.
The Mustangs return to the consolation round today for the second year in a row against a familiar foe, third-ranked Mid-Prairie (30-11), which they defeated 3-0 in the fifth place game last season. The teams square off on Diamond 2 at 10 a.m. with the winner advancing to meet the victor of Estherville-Lincoln Central (20-11), the Mustangs’ quarterfinal opponent in 2012, and ninth-rated Monticello (31-7) in the fifth place game today at 2 p.m. on Dodger Diamond.
While Clarke nearly doubled up East Marshall in hits at 13-7, the Mustangs only trailed by a pair of runs and had two outs in the top of the sixth, before the Indians caught fire.
Clarke’s next five batters reached base on four hits and a hit by pitch as Kassidy Spurgin and Amanda Kindred sprayed singles to opposite ends of the outfield, before Vanessa Bakley poked an RBI single in the left field gap. Kennedy Crees plated two more with a single to right, before Pate was beaned and Bemis chipped in a run-scoring single.
“They were waiting for their pitch,” said East Marshall sophomore pitcher Mariah Fritz (14-4), who took the loss allowing six runs (four earned) on 13 hits with two strikeouts.
“There was nothing really our defense could do. They were just putting it in play.”
While Clarke seemed to find every little crease in the Mustangs’ defense, East Marshall couldn’t find the same consistency at the plate – stranding two runners in the first, second and fifth innings.
East Marshall finally got things going in the seventh with a more instinctual approach as Fritz, Miller and Roseland connected on consecutive one-out infield singles, before Taylor Fricke plated Fritz’s courtesy runner – Kelsea Anderson – with a run-scoring single to left. Allen followed with a two-run single up the middle – driving in courtesy runner Bobbi Amendt and Miller, before Bemis retired the next two batters.
“We kind of stopped thinking about it so much and just tried going after it, knowing it was our last chance,” Miller said of the Mustangs’ final at-bat, after finishing 2-for-3, with a run and reaching base three times. “If only we could have started that a couple innings earlier.”
Spurgin broke the scoreless tie in the fourth, roping a two-out single to right to plate Carley Robins, who led off the inning with a single before taking second on a passed ball. After a pair of groundouts in the fifth, Bemis pushed the margin to 2-0, smacking a double off the center field fence to score Crees, who reached on an error.
“We make a play here or there, get a base hit – it’s a whole new ball game, said Hoskey. “But we didn’t, give (Clarke) credit.”
While 10 stranded base runners and six Clarke runs scored with two outs proved how fine a line tipped the balance against the Mustangs – they put it behind them minutes after the loss in their post-game huddle.
“We’re talking about tomorrow already,” Hoskey said, hoping the Mustangs can build from their late offensive surge.
“Hopefully that will give us some impetus to get to the games we need to play tomorrow. It’s a bitter pill to swallow – we thought we had a shot, but Clarke’s an awfully well-coached team with good hitting. We’ll get after it tomorrow.”
Bakley and Spurgin each hit 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Robins added two hits. Mid-Prairie lost to 14th ranked New Hampton 4-3 Tuesday. Top-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton cruised past Estherville-Lincoln Central 13-4 and fifth-rated Bondurant-Farrar trumped No. 9 Monticello 8-2 in Monday’s quarterfinals.