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Nine area players make all-state

Five on first team

The Iowa Girls Coaches Association announced its All-State Softball Teams on Tuesday, and a total of nine area players received all-state recognition.

Five of those players found themselves on the first team, including Clarke's Libby Bemis and Sarah Pate. Bemis was also named the Pitcher of the Year for Class 3A.

Joining Bemis and Pate on the Class 3A first team was Jenna Sandquist of Interstate 35. In Class 1A, Murray's Danielle McIntosh and Kate Patton were named to the first team.

Clarke junior Kennedy Crees and Interstate 35 senior Caitlin Weeks were both named to the second team in Class 3A, while Central Decatur's Hallie Linhart received second-team honors in Class 2A. Murray senior Cydney Hembry rounded out the list with a third-team selection in Class 1A.

Clarke selections

Clarke head coach Lindsay Diehl said having three players represent her team on the all-state teams is unbelievable.

"This was such a memorable season," she said. "This group will always be special to me. To end the season playing for a state title and to have people everywhere we go congratulating us, and to have three players honored by the state, I'd say people definitely know where Osceola is, in the softball world, anyway."

Bemis finished the season with a record of 19-7 in the pitching circle. Entering the state tournament, she had recorded 198 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings, compared to just 41 walks, posting an earned run average of 1.19.

Diehl said the demeanor Bemis displays on the mound carries over to the whole team, and really sets the tone for the rest of the Lady Indians.

Bemis saw plenty of success in the batter's box this season, as well. Bemis hit .336 entering the state tournament, with 12 doubles, one triple and two home runs to go with 25 runs batted in.

"She sat in that No. 4 spot for us most of the season," Diehl said. "There in the bottom of the seventh in the championship game, we're down three runs and she rips a double. She's such a clutch kid. She always gets that big hit when we need it. She's always producing in the game."

Meanwhile, Pate bounced back from a slow start to the season to do what she normally does  —  hit over .500.

The career .500 hitter posted a batting average of .530 entering the state tournament, roping nine doubles with five home runs and 34 RBI.

"Sarah, I couldn't be happier with the way she showed up," Diehl said. "She kind of started off the season struggling a little bit at the plate. I think she was really excited about moving on and going to college and doing track and field. That weekend after she went and did the all-start track meet, she kind of caught fire at that point. I think she really enjoyed the team aspect.

"Any kid who can throw out a five-season career that can bat .500, people are going to remember her for a long time," Diehl said. "She's put herself up on the record board in a couple of different categories. Having a heck of a run at the state tournament, and being named to the all-tournament team, she deserves every bit of that."

Crees, a junior left fielder, earned a spot on the second team for the Class 3A runner-up Lady Indians. Crees hit .447 for the season with two doubles and 13 RBI entering the state tournament. She was 26-of-29 in stolen base attempts.

"She has grown leaps and bounds," Diehl said. "She's one of those kids, she loves to play ball and she works so hard at it. She has grown mentally, which is a huge part of her game.

"Watching her at the plate, I can tell she's trying to read the defense, and as the year progressed, whatever I told her to do, it backfired," Diehl continued. "I really empowered her to read the defense and she does a great job of that. She's a fun kid to watch her play, because people don't know what to do against her. It's entertaining."

Area representatives

Interstate 35 Roadrunner junior Jenna Sandquist earned first-team honors in Class 3A after hitting .430 for the season with 13 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 33 RBI, 14 stolen bases in 14 attempts and 38 runs scored. She also posted a 2-1 record in the pitching circle with 24 strikeouts in 16 innings, with an ERA of 3.50.

Interstate 35 senior Caitlin Weeks was named to the Class 3A second team. Weeks hit .357 with eight doubles, five home runs and 23 RBI for the Roadrunners.

She handled the bulk of the pitching duties for the Roadrunners, finishing 21-5 for the season with 177 strikeouts compared to just 17 walks in 175 2/3 innings. She posted a 1.51 ERA and held opponents to a batting average of .191.

Central Decatur sophomore catcher Hallie Linhart earned second-team honors in Class 2A after a very solid season.

Linhart hit .427 with seven doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI, 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts and 30 runs scored. She was also tough behind the plate, posting a fielding percentage of .938. She threw out nearly half of the runners who tried to steal on her, throwing out nine of the 19 who attempted to run.

Murray trio

The Murray Mustangs were rewarded for their 25-7 season by placing three players on all-state teams, including first-teamers McIntosh and Patton.

Senior Cydney Hembry was named to the Class 1A third team.

"That's a pretty awesome feeling," Murray head coach Danny Jensen said. "I was somewhat surprised we were able to get three, but the kids that made it were top-quality players for Class 1A. It's a real tribute to the kids. It says a lot for the program."

McIntosh, a senior who earned first-team honors in Class 3A last year for Clarke, led the Mustangs with a batting average of .459, 16 doubles and eight home runs, while adding two triples and 38 RBI.

She also took some of the pressure off Patton in the pitching circle, throwing in 19 games, with a record of 13-6 to go with a 1.02 earned run average and 144 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings.

"Danielle was impressive offensively," Jensen said. "She was second or third in the state in home runs. But, she made it, I think, based on she is a very good defensive player. She only had six errors, playing two positions. A lot of people don't realize how good of a defensive player she is, too."

But perhaps the biggest asset McIntosh brought to the Mustangs this season was experience.

"These past four years, we've struggled, quite honestly," Jensen said. "I think she brought a lot of intensity to the table. She was the leader we needed. She was able to encourage the kids. She did a lot of the pregame talks to the kids."

And with less pressure on Patton thanks to McIntosh's arrival, Patton blossomed in her junior campaign.

Patton finished a perfect 12-0 in the pitching circle this season, striking out 110 batters in 92 innings with an earned run average of 1.22.

A career .400 hitter, Patton stayed right in line with that, batting .412 for the season, collecting 42 hits and scoring 44 runs. She rapped seven doubles, five triples, two home runs and drove in 16 runs. She also stole 37 bases in 37 attempts.

"Kate does it all," Jensen said. "It really starts for us with her speed and what she can do on the basepaths. Her pitching was much improved this year. I think sharing the time with Danielle really helped. She was more than willing as a teammate to give up half the pitching to Danielle, and really enjoyed playing shortstop, as well.

"Kate didn't have to carry us this year so much with the addition of those two seniors," he continued. "I think there was a lot less pressure on Kate this year, and she played a little more relaxed. She only struck out four times in 112 at-bats, so she cut that way down."

Hembry made the Class 1A third team after hitting .446 with 12 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 24 RBI. She also played strong defensively at first base, Jensen said.

"Her defensive numbers were really good," he said. "She had 208 chances this year and committed just four errors. A really good .981 percentage. She handled the bunt well. Just brought a lot of 'captainship' in the infield and made all the calls. She did the talking the entire night. She was the leader of our infield."

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