The Clarke softball team got off to a shaky start here Friday night against South Central Conference rival Centerville in a Class 3A Region 6 semifinal.
The Lady Indians committed three errors in the first two innings, leading to a Big Red run in the bottom half of the second.
After the run scored, Clarke head coach Lindsay Diehl called time out and held a conference in the pitching circle.
"I just went out there and talked about how we need to focus on the process and the little things and the fundamentals of the game," she said. "If you focus on the little things, everything will fall into place."
The conference worked, as pitcher Libby Bemis stranded a runner on third with three straight strikeouts.
Clarke manufactured a run in the top of the third to answer back and tie it at 1-1.
Vanessa Bakley led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. After Sarah Pate drew a walk, Libby Bemis hit a ball on the ground that went through the shortstop's legs, allowing Bakley to scamper home.
Home run derby
And then the bats came alive in the fourth inning.
With one out, catcher Kassidy Spurgin blasted the first pitch she saw over the top of the scoreboard in left-center field for a solo home run to give the Lady Indians a 2-1 lead.
Amanda Kindred followed with a double to right field, but was stranded at second base.
Bemis led off the top of the fifth inning with a single to center field and after a popup, Ashley Gibbs beat out an infield single.
Junior first baseman Devon Carson decided to get in on the home run derby at that point, sending a 1-1 pitch streaking over the left field fence for a three-run homer.
After going three up, three down in the sixth inning, Sarah Pate led off the top of the seventh inning with a solo home run of her own over the left field fence.
"One thing that's great about this group of kids is that they all have the ability to hit the ball out of the park," Diehl said. "Even all the way down seven, eight, nine can take it out of the park. That's a good feeling to know there's not a part in our lineup that really drops off. If somebody's off on a night, then somebody else steps up and gets a hit."
The six runs of support were more than enough for Bemis, who allowed just one hit, coming in the seventh inning, and no earned runs with one walk and 12 strikeouts.
After the three errors in the first two innings, Clarke didn't commit another error the rest of the way.
The Lady Indians now advance to their second straight Class 3A regional final.
Clarke held a lead in last year's game against Mid-Prairie, but saw that lead slip away in a loss.
Earning a trip to state this year won't be an easy task as the Lady Indians, ranked 11th in Class 3A, must now play No. 2-ranked West Burlington Notre Dame.
Game time is 7 p.m. Monday in Ottumwa.
"I went over with about eight kids and watched them play over on the other side of Iowa City," Diehl said. "They're a solid ball club, but I think they're very beatable. I think it's going to be a great challenge to go play a top team to go to state. Hopefully then once you get there, you've played the best team and can keep going. We're going to use that as an advantage. We're supposed to be the underdogs going in. They're a good ball club, so we're going to have to come ready to play."
The Lady Indians are chasing their first trip to state since the 1995 team won the state championship. That is the lone state appearance in school history.
Follow OST sports editor Scott Vicker on Twitter (@scottvicker) for live updates of Monday's regional final game.