Storm Lake native Katie Brown has had a busy week.
Brown, who now lives in Spirit Lake, pitched the Spirit Lake softball team to the Class 3A state title in Fort Dodge, pitching 21 innings in the tournament and emerging the winning pitcher in wins over Humboldt (8-1), Winterset (2-1) and the state championship game against Waukee (3-0).
"Katie was our workhouse this year and she was again in the state tournament," said Spirit Lake High softball coach Chuck Skogerboe. "She's just a sophomore, but has that little extra desire to win that makes her special. And I think the other kids on the team feed off of that."
Brown finished the season with an astonishing record - 42-4 - and tossed 23 shutouts in leading the Indians to a 48-4 mark.
"She was just as outstanding in the state tournament as she has been all season," Skogerboe said. "And she was such a threat at the plate that most teams pitched around her."
Indeed, Brown hit .396 in 2004 with 65 RBI.
Nevertheless, Skogerboe said, Brown was aided at state by a virtually flawless defense. According to Skogerboe, in three state tourney games, the Indians didn't commit an error in the field.
"We've stressed defense as the main part of our game since I took over the program five years ago," Skogerboe said. "And with Katie on the mound this season, we went on the assumption that if we scored one run and played good defense, it would be enough to win."
Skogerboe added that he felt his team struck a blow of sorts for the Lakes Conference in winning the state championship.
"It's always a boon to the conference you play for when you win a state title," added Skogerboe. "But our conference was very tough this year and it's going to be even tougher next year because not many teams lose seniors."
Spirit Lake entered the regular season ranked third in the state in Class 3A, but it's toughest game at regions might have come against sixth-ranked Storm Lake, which they beat 5-0 in Spirit Lake two weeks ago in the semifinals.
"They had some great players, players that we'd like to have on our team too," Skogerboe said. "They had a lot of weapons, and when we play Storm Lake, we always know we're going to get their A game. It will be the same thing next year."
The Indians opened the state tournament a week ago last Monday when they pounded Humboldt 8-1. Earlier in the season, Brown had pitched a no-hitter against Humboldt in a 6-0 victory.
"We knew they would be ready for us," added Skogerboe.
But the weather that Monday night wasn't cooperative for both teams. The game didn't start until 11 p.m. because of numerous rain delays, but Spirit Lake got an early lead anyway.
"Katie had warmed up several times prior to the game so she wasn't as sharp as she was the first time we played them," said Skogerboe. "I was impressed with the way she and the rest of our kids dealt with the adversity of such a late game."
In the state 3A semifinals, Brown pitched the Indians to a 2-1 win last Wednesday over Winterset. Brown helped her own cause, hitting a solo-homer off Winterset's ace pitcher, Kelsey Rethman for a 1-0 lead early in the game.
Brown gave up just three hits in the game but Winterset eventually tied it in the middle innings.
Spirit Lake got the gamewinner in the fifth when talented sophomore Rachel Gerking hit an RBI-triple.
"Katie pitched well the last two inning and shut the door,and we played some great defense behind her."
The win might have been the toughest game of the tournament for the Indians. Rethman entered the game with a 35-0 mound record.
"It was nice for the kids to beat Winterset after they beat us in the last game of the tournament last year 1-0," added Skogerboe. "That might have given our kids a little extra motivation."
Last Friday night, Spirit Lake won the state title on the strength of just enough offense and a three-hitter by Brown in a 3-0 win over Waukee.
The Indians had just three hits as well, but made them count.
According to Skogerboe, his team scored all three of its runs with two out and two strikes on the potential third out in the bottom of the fifth.
He said in that frame, catcher Rochelle Kies reached on an error, then after two hitters recorded outs, Gerking bunted for a single to put runners on first and second.
With two strikes on Brittany Brunsvold, the Indians attempted a double steal. The Waukee catcher's throw to third got past the first baseman and pitch runner Saddie Bahr scored on the play and Gerking went to third.
Brunsvold singled home Gerking for a 2-0 lead and went to second on the throw home. She was driven home on another clutch single by Emily Boettcher and that was all Brown needed.
"It was just a great experience for our kids to win it all," said Skogerboe. "We knew we had a chance to be either a good team or a great team at the beginning of the season. I gave the kids the challenge to be great instead of just good and they took it and ran with it."
Meanwhile, the Indians will be a sure pre-season number one in Class 3A next season. They don't have a senior their roster.
"I thought we had targets on our backs this year, when everybody brought their A game against us," he said. "But teams will really go after us next year. And it's just going to be tough in the Lakes Conference because so few teams, including Storm Lake, don't lose many seniors."
STATE TOURNEY NOTES - After the win over Waukee, Brown was voted the captain of the All Class 3A State Tournament team. Rachel Gerking and Spirit Lake third baseman Traci Smook also made the team.
*Gerking finished the season with a .558 batting average and didn't strike out once during the season.