The last time Clarke of Osceola played in the state softball tournament, most of its players weren't even born and the Lady Indians' coach was just a seventh grader.
None of that mattered in Tuesday's Class 3A quarterfinal on Diamond 1 at Rogers Park.
Playing in state for the first time since 1995 and for only the second time in school history, Clarke rode the pitching of junior Libby Bemis to a 6-3 win over East Marshall.
The Lady Indians (27-9) banged out 13 hits and never went down in order in any inning.
The win also kept Clarke unbeaten in state tournament games. The one trip to state in 1995 garnered a Class 2A state title.
"We just tried to focus on the process of getting through the game and not the outcome," said Clarke head coach Lindsay Diehl, a former Iowa Central Triton player and Clarke graduate who watched the 1995 team from the stands at Rogers Park. "We wanted to focus on pitch by pitch and inning by inning. We wanted to do the little things right and we've focused on fundamentals."
Clarke 6, East Marshall 3
Clarke 000 114 0 6 13 4
East Marshall 000 000 3 3 7 1
Libby Bemis (W,18-6) and Kassidy Spurgin. Mariah Fritz (L,14-4) and Katie Roseland. PB-Roseland. HBP-Clarke: Sarah Pate. 2B- Clarke: Bemis 2. S-Clarke: Kennedy Crees; EM: Paige Miller. SB-Clarke: Crees. LOB-Clarke 9, East Marshall 10. T-1:51.
Bemis (18-6) struck out nine batters and kept the fourth-ranked Mustangs (28-6) off the scoreboard until East Marshall made it interesting with three runs in the bottom of the seventh. Bemis scattered seven hits and walked just two.
"From the time we got up (Tuesday) morning and the kids were singing, we were loose," said Diehl. "We approached the game loose and we stayed loose."
Diehl even tried to keep the team relaxed on a visit to the field after an early error. She said she wanted her players to see she wasn't worried and they shouldn't be, either.
The game was a tight 2-0 contest until the sixth when Clarke put up four very important runs. The Lady Indians sent nine batters to the plate and scored all the runs with two outs.
Vanessa Bakley had an RBI single to start the scoring and Kennedy Crees followed with a two-run single. Bemis drove home the final run of the frame with a double.
"We have been working on scoring runs with two out. We just aren't done when we have two outs," said Diehl. "They are going up there swinging the bats."
Those runs proved very valuable when East Marshall finally got to Bemis in the seventh. Three straight infield singles with one out loaded the bases. Taylor Fricke then drove home a run and Ashley Allen made it 6-3 with a two-run single.
However, Bemis got a strikeout for the second out and ended the game two runners on second and third with a ground out to second baseman Ashley Gibbs.
Clarke started the scoring in the fourth, getting an RBI single from Kassidy Spurgin. Bemis made it 2-0 with a run-scoring double in the fifth.
Clarke will meet New Hampton in the 3A semifinals Thursday at 3:30 on Diamond 2. East Marshall meets Mid-Prairie in the consy round at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.