CLARKSVILLE — Under normal circumstances, it would have been easy for Clarksville’s softball team to look ahead.
Over half of the Indians roster entering this season consisted of upperclassmen from a program that has reached two of the previous three Class 1A state championship games. Yet, while competing in an era when one positive test for COVID-19 could mark a season’s end, Clarksville learned to take nothing for granted.
“I think the whole time it was kind of a concern, especially hearing how other schools had to shut down,” Clarksville head coach Katie Wedeking said. “The girls were pretty careful.
“That’s the reason we took every game day by day instead of looking to the future, because we never knew when it could be taken from us.”
Clarksville (16-1) will begin its state tournament quest at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Akron-Westfield (17-2) inside Fort Dodge’s Rogers Park. The Indians’ lone loss was by a 2-1 margin in extra innings to the Collins-Maxwell team that defeated Clarksville 4-3 in the 2019 championship game.
Earlier in the 2019 season, Iowa Star North champion Clarksville lost to Iowa Star South champion Collins-Maxwell by a 1-0 score. Each team is led by dominant senior pitchers.
Clarksville’s Kori Wedeking and Collins-Maxwell’s Mikayla Hogue have surpassed career milestones of 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts. Wedeking enters state with a 0.26 ERA this season, while Hogue’s ERA sits at 0.41.
“I think it’s a friendly competition,” Katie Wedeking said. “We’ve seen each other enough that they know a lot about us and we know a lot about them. It’s pretty much just who can make the least amount of errors and get the most hits. It’s anybody’s ballgame every single time we play them.”
It’s far from a given that the two Iowa Star Conference teams will meet in this year’s 1A title game.
Clarksvile’s first round opponent Akron-Westfield has reached state 15 of the last 18 years. Westerners’ coach Todd Colt is tied for Iowa’s active wins lead with 614 career victories. The Lisbon team (20-3) Clarksville edged 1-0 in last year’s state semifinal round will face a No. 2-seeded Newell-Fonda team (18-2) that has been tested by larger schools in the Indians’ half of the draw.
“One through eight are going to be super tough teams and you might see some upsets that aren’t really upsets because I think all teams are pretty even,” Wedeking said, assessing the 1A state field.
This week will mark the end of an era of dominance for Clarksville’s senior class of Emma Poppe, Chloe Ross, Janet Borchardt, Ainsley Lovrien and Kori Wedeking. Juniors Cheyenne Behrends and Makenzie Bloker have also been a part of multiple state tournament runs.
In total, nine starters are back from last season’s team that reached the title game.
Close-knit senior class leads a team that has reached two of the last three state softball finals.
It’s a ballclub that has captivated a community. After 200 fans showed up for the first two regional games, 645 were in attendance for Tuesday’s 6-1 regional final against AGWSR. Talent is surfacing from younger players, as well, including freshman Jenna Myers who hit a clutch home run during Clarksville’s state qualifying win.
Jenna Myers blasted a two-run homer to left field to highlight a four-run fifth inning as the No. 3 Clarksville overcame a slow start to down No. 14 AGWSR 6-1 Monday night, in a 1A regional final.
“I think our whole community has been following them since our seniors were in eighth grade,” Wedeking said. “Just watching them succeed, and go through the adversity.”
The end of one chapter will mark the start of another this week in Fort Dodge.
“It definitely means a lot,” Wedeking said. “For half of the team it’s their last shot and for the other half it’s another stepping stone in their career. They want to build off what they do this year.”
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