FORT DODGE — The Clarke softball team left little doubt here Monday that it means business.
Senior pitcher Libby Bemis, the reigning Class 3A Pitcher of the Year, tossed just the 13th perfect game in state tournament history as the Lady Indians quickly dispatched of Spirit Lake, 13-0 in three innings.
“Wow!” Bemis said after finding her perfect game was only the 13th in state tournament history.
“It’s amazing. Just even getting a perfect game is just great, let alone getting it in the state tournament. So it felt amazing.”
With the win, Clarke advances to the Class 3A semifinals for the second straight year. The Lady Indians will meet Greene County, which was a 2-0 winner over Center Point-Urbana on Monday.
Clarke will take to the diamond again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Last year we took second and second is not an option this year,” Bemis said.
Bemis struck out five of the nine batters she faced, only reaching a three-ball count against one batter.
The Lady Indians, which was the visiting team in the game, put a run on the board in the top of the first inning, as Spirit Lake committed back-to-back errors to open the game.
Kennedy Crees reached on an error, and then scored on a throwing error as Vanessa Bakley dropped a sacrifice bunt.
“I even felt a little nerves walking up here, just to be back here was an awesome feeling,” Clarke head coach Lindsay Diehl said. “But the kids stayed so calm. To get a run right away in that first inning, really kind of let me relax a little bit.”
Diehl said when she saw Spirit Lake’s Bailee Newman pitching, she felt confident her team would be able to get the bats going against the sophomore pitcher.
And that’s exactly what Clarke did.
Kassidy Spurgin started the second inning with a single to left. After a passed ball and groundout advanced courtesy runner Sidney Marker to third base, sophomore Ally Deutsch knocked an RBI single to make it 2-0.
Amanda Kindred drew a walk on four pitches, and after a Crees lineout, Bakley also drew a walk on four pitches to load the bases.
Facing a 2-1 count, Bemis helped her own cause when she ripped a bases-clearing double into left field to make it 5-0.
“The bases were loaded and I had to do something,” Bemis said. “I needed to make something happen and score some runs. I just stayed confident. She had been struggling, so I just waited for my perfect pitch and it was right down the middle, so I went with it.”
Courtesy runner Chynna Beydler scored on a Devon Carson infield single to make it 6-0.
After Bemis worked another three up, three down inning, Clarke stepped on the jugular with a seven-run third inning to go up 13-0.
Spurgin drew a leadoff walk and Sydnee Redman followed with a double to left-center field.
Deutsch, who has started at second base since regional play began, clubbed a two-run double off the fence in left field, scoring Marker and Redman.
Kindred kept the inning going with another walk, and Deutsch scored on a Bakley single. Flex player Mackenzi Otto, running for Kindred, scored as Bemis reached on a fielder’s choice.
That brought up Carley Robins, who was 0-for-2 in the game at that point.
Robins, who set a Class 3A state tournament record with three home runs in last year’s tournament, put an exclamation point on the game with a two-run home run to left-center field, giving Clarke the final 13-0 margin.
“I knew she was throwing outside,” Robins said. “My first two at-bats, I was off the plate and in the middle of the box, so my third at-bat, I scooted up onto the plate and to the front of the box.”
Robins said she didn’t think she hit a home run until she rounded first base and saw a fan in the bleachers stand up to catch the ball.
“I got really excited and ran faster!” Robins said. “When I rounded second base, coach D looked at me like, ‘how the heck did you hit one again?’ I don’t know how I hit it. I guess it’s the adrenaline, it just gets in me.”
Diehl said it didn’t surprise her that Robins hit another home run at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in the state tournament.
“We walked into the dugout after the game was over and I said to (assistant coach) Staci Ritchey, ‘Carley would hit a home run here.’” Diehl said. “She has just performed. She’s a clutch kid. I wouldn’t trade her for anybody. Even in her biggest slumps, I wouldn’t trade her for anybody. When it matters, she’s on.”
Clarke, now 25-8 for the season, advances to the Class 3A semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Lady Indians have two previous trips to the state tournament, finding a way to the state title game in both appearances.
“I’m pleased with the way we didn’t do it with any arrogance,” Diehl said. “So I’m pleased with the way the kids acted with class. We’re ready to take a couple of days off, practice a little bit and come back to play on Thursday.”
Clarke 13, Spirit Lake 0
R H E
Clarke 157 — 13 9 0
Spirit Lake 000 — 0 0 2
Clk: Libby Bemis 0BB 5K and Kassidy Spurgin. SL: Bailee Newman 4BB 1K and Whitlee Reitz. W — Bemis. L— Newman. HR — Clk: Carley Robins 1. 3B — none. 2B — Clk: Bemis 1, Sydnee Redman 1, Ally Deutsch 1. RBI — Clk: Bemis 3, Deutsch 3, Devon Carson 2, Robins 2, Vanessa Bakley 1. Multiple hitters — Clk: Carson 2, Deutsch 2.