FORT DODGE — Iowa City Regina Coach Jon Prottsman has led his team through four games in the month of July, and has presumably held some sort of a practice when they aren’t playing.
Yet when they took the field Monday afternoon at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A state tournament, the Regals didn’t look like themselves.
No. 8 Regina (28-11) was in a battle with No. 6 North Union (30-7), and through the first five innings of play the Regals held a 2-1 lead with just two hits.
Finally, though, Regina’s offensive mind-set changed. They threw together five runs in the sixth inning, and there was no looking back.
Regina rolled to an 8-1 win after its slow start, earning a spot in the semifinals.
“We were scared to death. I have no idea why,” Prottsman said of his team’s sluggish start. “They were just nervous and tense. We weren’t relaxed in swinging, we were just hunting for pitches. We were swinging hoping to hit the ball. We have been swinging the bat so well the past two weeks, and we looked like we hadn’t had practice the last two weeks.”
Regina pitcher Sarah Lehman, who had 14 strikeouts and held North Union to just three hits, said she thought it was just some pretournament jitters that shook the Regals.
“I don’t know why, but I guess we might have had some nerves,” Lehman said. “We know that the first game is super important, so we all really wanted to win that one. It took us a while to get comfortable again, and once we did we were fine.”
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Things finally clicked for the Regals at the start of the sixth inning, Prottsman said, behind left fielder Emma Corkery. The senior drilled a line drive to the center field wall to get the inning started. From there, the flood gates opened, with the Regals picking up five runs on four hits and three North Union errors.
“After that, they thought, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s how you play this game,’” Prottsman said. “Once that happened, I think everyone else loosed up.”
Regina’s five-run inning, paired with a two-run home run in the fourth from Katie Bracken, gave it a 7-1 lead. Finally comfortable, the Regals held North Union scoreless in the final two innings and picked up one more run in the seventh to give them the seven-run win.
Regina will take on No. 2 Durant in the semifinals at 3 p.m. Thursday. Durant had no trouble in its opening round game, beating Logan-Magnolia, 9-0. Durant beat the Regals twice this season and is the team Prottsman said is “supposed to win this (tournament), and probably rightly so.”
But after rallying Monday, and shaking the pretournament nerves, Lehman said she feels comfortable where they are at, and confident that they can get back to the championship game to redeem themselves from the loss there one year ago.
“We’re feeling good,” Lehman said. “We’re ready for them, and we can’t wait. ... I feel like we can do it, and we’re ready. We know what they’re like. We’ve seen both their pitchers, and we’re just ready.”
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