FORT DODGE — When New Hampton leadoff batter Raelyn Webster hit a solo home run in the first inning Thursday to put her team ahead 1-0, Clarke pitcher Libby Bemis told herself not to get too worried.
“It was a good pitch and she just it it out,” Bemis said. “The wind blew it out. I said there is a lot of ballgame left.”
Now that was an understatement.
The Chickasaws and Lady Indians traded haymakers for more than two hours, aided by southeast wind gusts above 20 mph blowing straight out to left-center field.
The end result was Clarke’s first appearance in a state championship game since winning the 1995 title. The 11th-ranked Lady Indians outlasted No. 14 New Hampton, 17-8.
Clarke (28-9) takes on No. 5 Bondurant-Farrarr (29-12) at 2:30 p.m. today on Diamond 1 at the Rogers Sports Complex for the Class 3A championship. Bondurant-Farrar nipped top-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 3-2, in eight innings.
New Hampton and SB-L meet at 1:30 p.m. today for third place on Diamond 2.
Clarke and New Hampton engaged in a record-setting offensive barrage. They combined for a state tournament record seven home runs, four by New Hampton. Clarke’s 21 hits were also the most in state tournament history. Combined, the teams managed 27 hits on juts three errors and no bunts.
New Hampton’s Webster and Clarke’s Carley Robins each homered twice. Jessica Crooks added a three-run homer and Jackie Whitman a solo shot for the Chickasaws (28-10). Devon Carson led off the Clarke sixth with a solo shot.
“The wind did help, but we also swung the bats well,” Clarke coach Lindsey Diehl said. “The kids adjusted to where it was being pitched. There’s no lull in our lineup. That’s great when you’re going for a state title.”
In addition to the three home runs, Sarah Pate provided hits in her first four at-bats, finishing with three RBI. Kennedy Crees, Carson, Amanda Kindred and Robins each had three-hit games in the relentless attack. Crees punched two triples over the head of the New Hampton drawn-in right fielder.
It was not a fun day for pitchers, but Clarke’s Bemis hung in there. She allowed only six hits — four of them roundtrippers — with 13 strikeouts and seven walks.
“I have confidence in my teammates that we we’ll get hits in a tight ballgame,” Bemis said. “Twenty-one hits is unbelievable.”
Diehl said she didn’t ask Bemis to change her pitching style, despite the fact that flyballs hit against the rise ball could easily leave the park.
“On the rise ball we just worked on throwing it more outside, on the outside corner,” Diehl said. “I didn’t want to change her game up too much. She just gets in her zone and goes. I thought she did a phenomenal job. The kids definitely showed up with the bats today.”
New Hampton coach Jack Seelhammer didn’t replace his freshman pitcher Jessie Crooks until the seventh inning, after Clarke owned a 13-8 lead.
“We’ve seen some good hitting teams this year, but nothing like that,” Seelhammer said. “We’d fight our way back and Clarke would just reload it seemed like. Our kids didn’t quit and showed a lot of fight. Today, we ran into a hot team, that’s all.”
Robins, who had four home runs this season before parking two more Thursday, said she got good swings on Crooks’ pitches.
“I just kept my eye on the ball and drove it,” Robins said. “The wind was blowing out really hard, so that helped.”
Pate, the designated player batting third in the Lady Indian lineup, has won the Drake Relays and State Coed Track and Field championship in the shot put, and placed third in the discus. She knows individual acclaim. But this, she said, is different.
“It’s bigger, I’m not alone,” Pate said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Catcher Kassidy Spurgin said the chance to play for a state championship hadn’t sunk in yet, immediately in the aftermath of the game. But she plans to keep it in perspective.
“When I get there, I live in the moment,” Spurgin said. “I wear a wrist bad that says ‘relax and breathe.’ I feel we are that (champion) team, so I’ll be even-keeled about it.”
Bondurant-Farrar comes from the rugged Raccoon River Conference, which includes state tourney teams Dallas Center-Grimes, Winterset and Carlisle, and regional finalist Ballard. However, Clarke won the Bondurant-Farrar tournament, beating Carlisle in the process. The Lady Indians did not face B-F.
“I saw them at their tournament,” Diehl said. “The guy who coaches them used to coach Lincoln up here all the time when I was a kid. He gets them prepared. We’ll definitely have to show up and be ready to play. They have a good little pitcher.”
Diehl is a 2000 Clarke graduate. She was in seventh grade when Clarke won the state title in 1995. Now, she stands in the third-base coaching box on the ultimate stage.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with our kids in playing for a state title tomorrow,” Diehl said. “Our dugout was getting loud, breaking clipboards, doing whatever it takes to stay in the game. It took all 20 of them.”
A reception for the team will be held Friday night at the high school when the team returns, probably between 7:30 and 8 p.m.
Clarke 17, New Hampton 8
R H E
Clarke 050 341 4 — 17 21 2
N. Hampton 104 210 0 — 8 6 1
C: Libby Bemis 13K 7BB and Kassidy Spurgin. NH: Jessica Crooks 2K 2BB, Jamie Jackson (7) 0K 1BB and Jackie Whitman. W — Bemis. L— Crooks. HR — C: Robins 2, Carson; NH: Raelyn Webster 2, Whitman, Crooks. 3B — C: Crees 2. 2B — C: Sarah Pate, Ashley Gibbs, Kassidy Spurgin; NH: Jennifer Ankrom. RBI — C: Robins 4, Carson 3, A. Kindred 3, Pate 3, Crees 3, Vanessa Bakley 1; NH: Webster 3, Crooks 3, Ankrom 1, Whitman 1. Multiple hitters — C: Pate 4, Crees 3, Robins 3, Carson 3, Kindred 3, Gibbs 2, Bemis 2; NH: Webster 2.