Emmetsburg is no stranger to the state softball tournament.
The No. 7 E-Hawks (32-9 overall) are making their third trip to Fort Dodge in the past five years here this week.
In a Class 2A quarterfinal, Emmetsburg will clash with fifth-ranked Des Moines Christian (27-6) today at 3:30 p.m. on Diamond 2 at Rogers Sports Complex.
The Lakes Conference co-champion E-Hawks have prevailed in 16 of their past 17 games entering state play, including postseason triumphs over Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (10-0), West Lyon (5-1) and Lake Mills (3-1). Emmetsburg has outscored its opponents on the year by a lopsided combined margin of 258-101, while collecting 12 shutouts.
"Our goals were to win conference and get back to state, but we didn't know what type of team we'd have after losing two seniors (Hillary Pico and Morgan Vlasman)," said fourth-year EHS head coach Travis Birkey, who previously guided the E-Hawks to a 2A runner-up showing in 2009. "We kind of struggled the first couple of weeks and made some errors at key spots where we were young. Then, we just kind of settled in and are playing great softball right now, which hopefully we can continue."
Spearheading the E-Hawk offensive charge are senior Faith Schmidt (.382 BA, 42 H, 36 RBI), senior Aly Berven (.356 BA, 47 H, 46 R, 20 SB), junior Miranda Vlasman (.331 BA, 40 H, 30 RBI) and junior Jacque Carlson (.328 BA, 38 H, 22 RBI, 19 R). Emmetsburg owns a .294 team batting average and has swiped 49 bags in 56 attempts (87.5 percent).
Schmidt has also been a workhorse in the circle for the E-Hawks, posting a 28-8 mark and 1.11 ERA in 221 1/3 innings pitched. Schmidt ranks third in 2A and seventh in the entire state in strikeouts (313). She has yielded 142 hits and held opponents to an impressive .171 batting average.
"Faith has been rock solid in the circle all year long," Birkey said. "I would definitely say pitching is our strength. Our defense has also played extremely well of late. We'll score a couple of runs here and there, but we're not a team that's going to put up nine or 10 runs per game."
Des Moines Christian, which sports a seven-game victory streak and has yet to allow a run in the postseason, eliminated Ogden (4-0), Woodward-Granger (7-0) and Madrid (5-0) during its tournament trail. The Lions, who finished second in the West Central Activities Conference at 15-3, have reached state in four of the past six years.
Catalysts for Des Moines Christian are senior Annette Bosman (.515 BA, 34 H, 30 RBI, 22 R, 8 HR), junior Olivia Rasmussen (.425 BA, 45 H, 40 R, 36 RBI, 8 HR), senior Leah Harris (.398 BA, 43 H, 32 RBI, 6 HR) and senior Tierra Fletcher (.382 BA, 42 H, 41 R, 22 RBI, 9 HR). The Lions, who are batting .334 as a team, rank second in the whole state in home runs (40) and have clubbed 100 extra-base hits on the season.
"Des Moines Christian's top of of the lineup is pretty strong, and they hit the ball very well as a team," said Birkey, who is 121-26 at the helm. "No matter what team we face, though, we're more worried about ourselves and how we play."
Harris, the daughter of DMC head coach Howard Harris, boasts a 16-2 pitching record with a 1.14 ERA, covering 110 2/3 innings. She has allowed just 57 hits, while striking out 139.
Community backing has once again been a major factor in Emmetsburg's state run.
"Those gates have been very packed with E-Hawk fans," Birkey said. "We sold close to 200 state t-shirts in 24 hours after they went on sale. Our fan support has been huge. We're expecting another great crowd (today)."
This afternoon's winner between the E-Hawks and Lions moves on to face either No. 2 Durant (31-5) or Denver (26-6) in the 2A semifinals Thursday at 1 p.m. on Diamond 1.