FORT DODGE — The Clarke Lady Indians scored six runs, all coming with two outs, in a 6-3 win over East Marshall here Tuesday in the Class 3A State Softball Tournament.
Clarke advances to the state semifinals, where it will take on New Hampton at 3:30 p.m. Thursday on Diamond 2 at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex.
Both Clarke's Libby Bemis and East Marshall pitcher Mariah Fritz worked in and out of jams in the first three innings.
In fact, East Marshall put runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings.
But, as she has done so many times throughout the season, Bemis worked her way out of those jams.
Bemis, who finished the game with nine strikeouts, worked out of jams in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings before finally giving up three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
"My team, they sometimes put me in jams, but I love them and that's just sometimes going to happen," Bemis said. "I just pitch my hardest and do what I can do to help them out, and then they can help me out.
"Even when they hit the ball, I still feel confident," she continued. "I feel like I'm one of the best pitchers in the state and I feel like I know that, and I'm just confident in what I do."
Finally, in the top of the fourth inning, the scoreless tie was broken, as Clarke struck first.
Junior center fielder Carley Robins led off with a single and took second base on a passed ball.
After a pair of pop-ups, Kassidy Spurgin ripped a 3-1 pitch right back up the middle, plating Robins to put Clarke up 1-0.
"I thought that was huge," Clarke Head Coach Lindsay Diehl said. "Any time you can put runs on the board, especially with Libby doing such a great job, give her a little breathing room. She is not the kind of kid that needs a lot of breathing room. She kind of likes it when you're in those tight situations, but it felt good."
Clarke added to its lead in the top of the fifth inning, when Kennedy Crees reached on an error with one out. Crees advanced to second on a Sarah Pate groundout.
Facing a 1-0 count, Bemis hit a towering double off the fence in left field, allowing Crees to scamper home, giving the Lady Indians a 2-0 lead.
Things really opened up in the top of the sixth inning, as Clarke pushed four runs across on five hits to take a 6-0 lead.
Spurgin got things started with a two-out single up the middle and Amanda Kindred followed with a single of her own.
Vanessa Bakley singled to left field, as courtesy runner Sydnee Redman came home on the play.
Crees then slapped a single into left field, scoring Kindred and Bakley.
"Kennedy, she's really come into her own this year and become a ballplayer, a well-rounded ballplayer," Diehl said. "She wants to be up to the plate when runners are in scoring position, whereas last year, I used to pinch hit for her in that situation. I used to bring in someone I thought could drive in runs, and now that's her. She'll do that day in and day out."
After Pate reached base by getting hit with a pitch, Bemis singled into left-center field to score Crees.
"It was really important," Bemis said about scoring four runs in the sixth inning. "We were only up 2-0 before the sixth inning, and that last inning, if we wouldn't have scored those four runs, we would have lost the game. So we all knew we could hit, we just had to put our bats to it and have confidence we could do it."
Those four runs proved to be very important, because East Marshall strung together five straight hits in the bottom of the seventh inning to close the lead to 6-3.
But, Bemis got out of the jam by striking out Callie Roseland and forcing Haley Long to pop up to second baseman Ashley Gibbs.
The Lady Indians got production from just about every spot in the lineup in the win.
Bemis helped her own cause by going 2-for-4 with two RBI.
"I try as much as I can to stay calm and hit like I know we can hit," Bemis said. "If there's runners in scoring position, then I try even harder, but I just stay confident and know that I can hit the ball."
Meanwhile, Bakley, an eighth-grader batting in the leadoff spot, went 3-for-4 with one RBI. Batting with two outs in an inning didn't rattle the nerves of the eighth-grader.
"It's just something we do," she said. "Two outs, whatever you've got, you just have to make the best of it. Coach had talked to us before the game and she said you've gotta be confident this is your field. We just kind of took it from there. I was pretty relaxed."
Spurgin also collected three hits in the game, while Robins finished with two hits.
Clarke now advances to take on New Hampton (28-9) in the state semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday on Diamond 2 in Fort Dodge.
On the other side of the bracket, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (34-3) and Bondurant-Farrar (28-12) are still alive.
"Feels pretty good to just get through that first one," Diehl said. "And the kids, I'm really pleased with the way they stepped out on that diamond. I went and bought us a radio so we could have our own walk-up song coming up here. They were singing Miley Cyrus in the dorms before breakfast, so they've just been so loose and relaxed, and I think that's a difference maker for us. They're a group of kids that are rookies coming into the state tournament, that are acting like they've been here 100 times over."
Bemis is excited to be moving on. And she's ready for whoever comes at her next.
"It feels great, and I can't wait for the next game and to move on after that," she said. "They can bring it, because we're ready!"
Clarke 6, East Marshall 3
R H E
Clarke 000 114 0 — 6 13 3
EM 000 000 3 — 3 7 1
Libby Bemis 9K 2BB and Kassidy Spurgin. Mariah Fritz 2K 0BB and Katie Roseland. W — Bemis. L— Roseland. HR — none. 3B — none. 2B — Cl: Bemis 1. RBI — Cl: Kennedy Crees 2, Libby Bemis 2, Vanessa Bakley 1. EM: Ashley Allen 2, Taylor Fricke 1. Multiple hitters — Cl: Bakley 3, Spurgin 3, Bemis 2, Carley Robins 2. EM: Paige Miller 2, Allen 2.