FORT DODGE - Playing relaxed appears to work well for fifth-ranked Estherville Lincoln Central.
The Midgets breezed through the Class 3A quarterfinal state softball game with an 8-2 win over seventh-ranked East Marshall on Monday.
The Midgets built an 8-0 lead through four innings, which included a two-run home run by freshman Caitlyn Clayton, before the Mustangs got on the board.
ELC freshman Caitlyn Clayton (22) is greeted at home plate by her teammates after hitting a two-run home run against East Marshall in a Class 3A State Softball quarterfinal on Monday in Fort Dodge. It was Clayton’s third home run of the season.
"The girls are just more relaxed," said ELC coach Megan Anderson. "They came in feeling confident and they knew what they had to do."
The Midgets advance to Thursday's semifinal game against top-ranked Solon (38-6). Solon defeated Waukon by the same score, 8-2. The other two 3A quarterfinal games will be played this morning.
East Marshall opened the game with a leadoff double by Alyssa Whitmore. But after a sacrifice bunt by Paige Miller, ELC ace Kendall Bosch struck out Chelsea Whitmore and Karly Long to end the inning.
Including those three outs, Bosch and the ELC defense retired 14 straight batters after that double.
"We threw a curveball on the outside to see what would happen. After that we stayed away from the outside of the plate," said Anderson.
Meanwhile, ELC went to work offensively in the bottom of the second.
Bosch helped her cause with a leadoff single. Rachel Bates came in to run for her and went to second on a passed ball. With one out, Taylor Lago bunted back to East Marshall pitcher Haley Long who overthrew first as Bates scored the first run. Lago went to second on the error.
Sadie Winter, who finished the game 2-3, then singled up the middle to score Carson Gjerde, who was courtesy running for Lago.
"What a great night for Sadie," said Anderson. "I hope it can continue for her."
Clayton drew a walk and Kellie Christensen had an infield single as ELC loaded the bases. Kristen King drew a walk to drive in one run.
Long was replaced on the mound by Mariah Fritz. The move worked for the Mustangs as Dahl hit a grounder to short with the defense taking the force out at home plate. Emily Kirchner then grounded out to first base as ELC left the bases loaded.
But ELC kept the pressure on in the third inning.
Bosch again led off with a single and courtesy runner Bates advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Christina Tendal. Bates went to third when Lago grounded out to the pitcher.
Winter again came up and delivered an RBI double to left field.
Clayton then crushed the ball over the left-field fence for her two-run home run and a 6-0 ELC lead.
ELC added two more runs in the fourth inning. Dahl reached on a one-out error by Mustang third baseman Whitmore. Dahl went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Kirchner's only single of the night. Kirchner stole second base and went to third when Bosch grounded out to third base. Tendal then singled up the middle for ELC's final run of the game.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, ELC's defense struggled to get the third out.
Taylor Fricke singled and Callie Roseland reached on the Midgets' lone error. A bloop single by Ashley Allen scored the Mustangs' first run. Whitmore singled to load the bases and an infield single by Miller scored the second run.
Anderson then went out to talk her team.
"I just told them we need to finish the inning," she said.
ELC ended the threat as Whitmore popped up to Clayton at third base.
The Midgets retired the final six batters over the final two innings to secure the victory.
For ELC, Bosch was 3-4, Winter was 2-3 with two RBIs and Christensen was 2-3. Also Clayton was 1-2 with two RBIs, Tendal was 1-3 with an RBI and Kirchner was 1-4 with an RBI.
On the mound, Bosch gave up five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
East Marshall000 020 0 2 5 2
ELC033 200 x 8 10 1
WP Bosch. LP Long. 2B Whitmore (EM); Winter (ELC). HR Clayton (ELC).