INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
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DES MOINES – Andy Gahan has impeccable handwriting, very legibly and neatly filling out his lineup card pregame Monday night. Copies are made by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and distributed to media covering the state tournament.
You could read every single Iowa City Regina player’s number, every name so clearly. But there was one thing Gahan forgot: defensive positions.
That part of his card was blank, though you need to cut him some serious slack. He was preparing for his team’s biggest game of the season, also knowing it could be his last as head coach.
Which it was, as it turned out.
“This season was a blast, from day one,” Gahan said, refusing to be sad despite Regina’s 2-1 loss Monday night to Van Meter in a Class 2A state tournament quarterfinal at Principal Park. “Every season has been a blast. Just because it’s my last one doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being a big fan of this team, what they do in the future and everything else. To have it go out like this (in the state tournament) was great. We obviously didn’t get the goal we wanted, but, oh, well. We had fun doing it. This team has a really bright future.”
Gahan took over at his alma mater in 1999 and led the Regals to state twice. He is taking a principal’s job at an elementary school in Coralville and will be missed by the Regina community.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Regina’s Riley Dixon, through tears. “Put a lot of time in, made a lot of sacrifices (with) his family. Tough to see him leave.”
It was tough to see how this game played out. Regina (26-17), the field’s sixth seed, scored the first run on a Dixon RBI single in the top of the third.
The Regals had runners on the corners with one out, looking for more, but Jake Brinkman hit a chopper to third, with Payton Raso being thrown out at the plate. Dixon rounded second base too far on the play and also was thrown out alertly by Van Meter catcher Ben Engstrand.
The Bulldogs (32-2) then scored twice in the bottom of the third.
Ben Flaherty reached on a one-out infield single, though it appeared he may have been out. Leadoff hitter Jake Eslick dragged a bunt down the third-base line, beating it out for a single and going to second on third baseman Zach Galindo’s throwing error off his helmet. Flaherty went to third.
Zach Forret and Brandon Brittain followed with run-scoring singles.
“The big inning when they scored, I wish I had a couple of those back,” said Brinkman (6-3), the tough-luck losing pitcher. “You just have to look ahead, I guess, and not behind.”
Regina stranded the tying run at third base against Brittain (8-0) in the fourth inning. Luke Gallagher was hit by a pitch leading off the Regals seventh, went to second on a one-out wild pitch but was stranded there as Brittain struck out the next two hitters to end it.
He finished with a three-hitter, whiffing nine.
“Their pitcher did his job,” Gahan said. “They got the key hits when they needed them, played a better baseball game than us. Credit goes to them. We made a few mental mistakes on the bases. Stuff like that.”
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