FORT DODGE — Clarke’s magical ride through the Class 3A postseason was finally grounded by Bondurant-Farrar all-state pitcher Cailey Schlenker and her hungry group of teammates.
“We finally get our picture up in the gym,” said Schlenker, named the all-tournament captain. “It’s not just the boys anymore.”
Bondurant-Farrar had won state titles in boys basketball as well as dual and traditional wrestling, but never in any girls sport, until posting a 6-3 victory over the Clarke Lady Indians Friday in the Class 3A championship game.
The Lady Jays (30-12) were toughened by finishing fifth in the rugged Raccoon River Conference, a league that produced both 4A finalists as Dallas Center-Grimes topped Carlisle later on Friday. Fifth-place Winterset was also a 4A state competitor from that league. Ballard, a regional finalist, was 4A champ a year ago.
South Central Conference champion Clarke (28-10) came into the title game hitting a class-best .453, averaging 11 runs per game in two state tournament victories.
Schlenker pitched a four-hitter Friday with one walk and one strikeout. She effectively induced pop flies and weak ground balls from a lineup that pounded 21 hits in Thursday’s 17-8 victory over New Hampton.
“She is a phenomenal pitcher,” said Clarke coach Lindsay Diehl. “I know she is going on to play at DMACC, which is a solid program. She was living on the outside corner and mixing in the changeup. She was fooling us and we weren’t hitting the ball on the nose like we had been.”
The 11th-ranked Clarke team competed well with the No. 5 Lady Jays after a shaky start. B-F took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning. During that early stretch, Clarke had three of its four errors.
Bondurant-Farrar, which overcame five errors in its semifinal win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton, played errorless on Friday.
“We could tell there were some jitters,” Diehl said. “We looked tight those first couple innings, and gave a couple of runs away. Any time you’re playing in a huge game like that, and you’re giving runs away, it’s hard to fight back from that.”
Bondurant-Farrar coach Roger Roland, who previously won two state titles at Des Moines Lincoln, played “small ball” in scoring the team’s third run in the fourth. Schlenker led off with a double. A sacrifice bunt and squeeze bunt quickly made it 3-0.
As it turned out, the Lady Jays needed some seventh-inning insurance, when they scored three runs on one hit, a pair of walks and two fielder’s choices.
That’s because Clarke center fielder Carley Robins hit her third home run in two days when she smashed a drive straight into a 27 mph wind over the left field fence with Sarah Pate on base. The shot was a spirit booster in closing the gap to 3-2.
The wind was out of the northwest with an accompanying cool front, and was the exact opposite of 25 mph gusts the day before that helped account for seven home runs in Clake’s semifinal game.
“I knew it was going to take a shot to get the ball out of the park today,” Diehl said. “Carley Robins stepped up and just smoked the ball. It put us right back in the ballgame.”
Clarke pitcher Libby Bemis, who returned to more normal production after Thursday’s windswept slugfest, said Bondurant-Farrar’s seventh inning rally, including two run-scoring fielder’s choices, was frustrating.
“They hit a couple balls hard today, but not too many hard hits,” Bemis said. “They were fast on the base paths. We just needed outs at that point, but we couldn’t get them when we needed them.”
Even after the Lady Jays went up 6-2 in the top of the seventh, Clarke didn’t retire quietly in its final at-bat.
Bemis led off with a double to right field, with Sydnee Redman replacing her as a courtesy runner. With one out, Redman advanced on a wild pitch and Ashley Gibbs drew a walk. Devon Carson then lofted a pop fly into foul territory behind third base.
Redman broke to the plate on the catch, and beat the tag as Carson picked up the RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Shortstop Emily Wilson then ranged to her right to glove another pop fly to end the game, and ignite a Lady Jay celebration in the center of the diamond.
Eighth-grader Sam Koehn sparked the Lady Jay offense in this game, going 3-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored.
She joined Schlenker, Wilson and catcher Erin Sawatzky on the 3A All-Tournament Team. Representing Clarke were Pate (2-for-3 in the game), Bemis and Robins.
After receiving the runner-up trophy, Diehl consoled her disappointed squad. The fourth-year coach reminded them of what they had accomplished in front of a huge crowd of maroon-clad supporters.
“Any time you can end the year playing for a state championship, there’s nothing to be upset about,” Diehl said.
When seniors Pate, Gibbs, No. 2 pitcher Carrie Kindred and Kim Eddy were freshmen, Diehl began leading a program that had won six games the previous season. She reminded them of their progress.
“You have built a program that people know now,” Diehl said. “They want to be like you. That’s so awesome. So don’t hang your heads!”
Of the two senior starters, Pate will join the University of Northern Iowa track team in the throwing events, while Gibbs plans to continue playing softball at Southwestern Community College.
Bondurant-Farrar 6, Clarke 3
R H E
Bond-Farrar 101 100 3 — 6 5 0
Clarke 000 200 1 — 3 4 4
BF: Cailey Schlenker 1K 1BB and Erin Sawatzky. C: Libby Bemis 1K 1BB 3 HBP and Kassidy Spurgin. W — Schlenker. L— Bemis. HR — C. Carley Robins. 3B — BF: Sam Koehn. 2B — BF: Schlenker; C: Bemis. RBI — BF: Keely Bycroft 1, Annika Ekstram 1, Schlenker 1, Sawatzky 1; C: Robins 2. Multiple hitters — BF: Sam Koehn 2; C: Sarah Pate 2.
All-tournament — Sarah Pate, Clarke; Erin Sawatzky, Bondurant-Farrar; Emily Kirchner, Estherville-Lincoln Central; Maddie Kaalberg, Mid-Prairie; Miles Ludwigs, Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Raelyn Webster, New Hampton; Sam Koehn, Bondurant-Farrar; Libby Bemis, Clarke; Emily Wilson, Bondurant-Farrar; Carley Robins, Clarke; Cailey Schlenker, Bondurant-Farrar (captain).