LE GRAND - With all the goals crossed off and achieved, the aim now for the East Marshall softball team is to savor the experience.
And, ideally, win a few games at the Class 3A Iowa Girls' State Softball Tournament.
The Mustangs return to the state tournament for the first time in a generation tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Harlan Rogers Softball Complex in Fort Dodge.
T-R PHOTO BY BRYAN STEWART
The East Marshall softball team poses for photographs after winning its Class 3A regional final over Iowa Falls-Alden on July 9 in Roland. Pictured are front row: (from left) Chelsea Whitmore, Abby Nuese, Alyssa Whitmore and Karly Long; middle row: Gerrie Westendorf, Katie Roseland, Callie Roseland, Madisen Hinegardner, Haley Long, Mariah Fritz, Ashley Allen and Paige Miller; back row: assistant coach Greg Lee, head coach Jary Hoskey, Sophia Grego, Danielle Roberts, Kelsea Anderson, Paige Flugge, Kylee Hoskey, Taylor Fricke and assistant coach Mike Whitmore.
"It's an event that maybe only comes along once in a lifetime so we told them to enjoy it," said head coach Jary Hoskey. "We told them to grasp it and enjoy and absorb, to have fun with it.
"We're going up there certainly not to lose, but we're also going to enjoy it while we're there."
East Marshall has the credentials that would make a run to the right side of the bracket a real possibility.
The Mustangs started the season with 15-straight wins and racked up a 30-5 record along with a co-NICL West conference crown as they scratched every goal off their preseason list: Team unity, conference championship, 20 wins and a state tournament berth.
"We'll talk about another goal, and that's finishing at the state tournament," said Hoskey. "In our class, there's 64 teams. There's only eight up there, and we're one of the eight."
And so the mindset has changed as the Mustangs worked in advance of their first appearance at state since 1995.
"We're not preparing to get to state," said senior center fielder Abby Nuese, "we're preparing to win state."
The first task will be Estherville-Lincoln Central and its star pitcher, Kendall Bosch, a Syracuse recruit.
The senior owns Class 3A's best ERA with a mark of 0.68. She has 189 strikeouts against just nine walks in 154 2/3 innings.
"Their pitcher throws pretty well, has a curveball and uses her changeup pretty well," said Hoskey.
The Midgettes (27-6) also have a star at the plate in junior Emily Kirchner, who ranks second in the class with a .579 batting average.
East Marshall is tops in 3A with 29 team home runs - a school record - and third with a .397 team batting average.
E-LC was last year's fifth-place finisher at state in the Class 2A tournament.
"We're going to have to be (on) our A-game," said Hoskey. "If we play like we did last Monday against Iowa Falls-Alden (in the regional final), we'll be in the game."
They'll also have plenty of support.
Over 100 Mustang supporters met the team at home after knocking off IF-A at nearly 11 p.m., according to Hoskey.
"I think a lot of the girls had tears in their eyes. It's deserved," said the head coach. "Some of those pitchers that have been throwing since November and the girls come in every Sunday and hit, so that's just a small reward for all of their hard work."
"Our community needed this," he added. "It needed something to bring us together."