FORT DODGE -- Cheyenne Behrends sent her five senior teammates off into the Fort Dodge sunset with an elusive Class 1A state championship.
Perhaps they’ll find the pair of home run balls that the Clarksville junior shortstop lined into the picturesque Friday night sky to cap a perfect ending to a special run of success for this talented small-town softball team.
With two perfect swings of her bat, Behrends hit solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings for the first two hits of Clarksville's 2-0 victory over Collins-Maxwell. Those swings were all the Indians' defense needed to clinch a title in the program’s third trip to the finals over the past four seasons.
“It does not feel real right now,” Behrends said, after being named the all-tournament team captain. “It is literally insane. I am so proud of this team. We deserve every second of this. I’m going to start crying again.”
Led by an ace pitcher in University of Virginia signee Mikayla Houge and an offense that always managed to manufacture a run with pesky squeeze bunts, Collins-Maxwell (21-2) had been Clarksville’s nemesis over the past three seasons. Clarksville had lost the previous four meetings against the Spartans by a single run, including last year’s state-title game and a regular-season game this summer in which the Indians surrendered a lead.
“It’s super special,” Clarksville coach Katie Wedeking said, after her senior class finished its last four seasons of softball with a 103-11 record and championship hardware. “The senior group has been working since they were freshman. They made it down here three years and they just haven’t given up. It’s nice to see their final game that their dreams come true.”
Katie Wedeking’s sister, Kimberly, returned to help coach this summer while her youngest sister, Kori, was among the Clarksville seniors who finished on top. Her dad, Joe, was a fastpitch softball player himself, with a softball diamond sitting in the family’s front yard.
“Softball has been a big part of our life and our family,” Kori Wedeking said. “I think my dad is the happiest, probably, out of all of us just to see one of his daughters finally come home with the championship and to know that his other daughters coached the team.”
A pitcher with over 1,000 career strikeouts and 100 career wins, Kori Wedeking saved one of her best games for last.
Wedeking didn’t walk a single Spartan and she struck out seven, while working around three hits. Collins-Maxwell advanced runners into scoring position in the first two innings, but they were left stranded.
Ella Kahler opened the home half of the second inning with a double into the right-field corner. She moved to third on a sacrifice bunt before Kori Wedeking answered with a riseball strikeout and second baseman Chloe Ross fielded a fly to end the threat.
Then after Behrends’ second home run gave Clarksville a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning, Collins-Maxwell leadoff hitter Alexis Houge reached on a one-out bunt. Alexis Houge moved to third when a throw on her stolen base attempt sailed into center field.
Prepared for the Spartans’ squeeze bunt, Clarksville moved its best fielder, Behrends, to the third baseline to force Collins-Maxwell’s No. 2 hitter, Kahler, into a swing. Wedeking struck her out and followed that with a strikeout of the Spartans’ top hitter Mikayla Houge.
“To get that strikeout on Mikayla Houge was just huge because I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before,” Kori Wedeking said. “It was a good night to be on.”
Fittingly, Wedeking’s final pitch was a strikeout that clinched a state championship. Clarksville's soft-spoken leader whose composure helped the Indians rally from a 5-0 deficit in their 2020 state opener, didn’t reveal much emotion as elated teammates mobbed her in the pitcher’s circle.
“I honestly didn’t get that emotional, because it didn’t feel real. Everyone around me was balling.” Kori Wedeking smiled. “It was just a perfect ending.”
A Clarksville team that had nervous jitters as errors led to six runs allowed in the state quarterfinals, didn’t surrender a single run over the semifinal and championship rounds.
“Before the game we were all so focused,” Kori Wedeking said. “We all wanted it super bad and we weren’t going to let any stupid errors get in the way of that.”
While Clarksville’s senior class of Emma Poppe, Chloe Ross, Janet Borchardt, Ainsley Lovrien and Wedeking left the field champions, Behrends and the next wave of Indian stars made a name for themselves.
“Cheyenne has been determined this whole tournament to kind of make a statement. Without her I don’t know where we’d be,” Katie Wedeking said. “I think you’re kind of stupid if you don’t try and recruit her after this. Hopefully her name gets out there.”
Beyond the her play in the field and at the plate, Behrends has been an uplifting presence in the dugout.
“She loves the sport of softball,” Katie Wedeking said. “She does it year-round, but she’s also an amazing teammate. She’s the one that’s cheering everybody else on so it’s cool to see her be the star of the show for this one.”
Behrends, who joined junior Makenzie Bloker in playing travel ball with the current Clarskville seniors, said afterwards that group has set the tone for the program for the next century.
This championship was a full team effort. Freshmen in third baseman Cailyn Hardy, right fielder Jenna Myers and designated player Rachel Borchardt joined sophomore left fielder Sierra Vance as contributors during Friday’s title game.
After taking photos with their championship trophy, a few players returned to the diamond and collected dirt into water bottles. Clarksville's long-awaited celebration continued late into the night.
“We worked so hard,” Behrends said. “We knew our goal in the beginning and we went for it and we got it. I cannot believe it right now. This does not feel real.
“We are going to go home and we’re going to wear our pink (state championship) shirts for the rest of the week. I love this team so much. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a hundred times.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!