116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FORT DODGE — Emma Nibaur called it “The Regal Way,” and who’s to argue?
Get to the state softball tournament, and these things seem to happen for this program.
Four-run deficit? Big deal.
Four errors? No worries.
Dani Laughlin drove home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning, then gunned down the potential equalizer from center field in the top of the seventh, and fourth-ranked Iowa City Regina stormed past No. 6 Van Meter, 6-5, in a Class 2A quarterfinal at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“We were down, but we weren’t DOWN down,” Laughlin said after the Regals (22-11) advanced to face No. 1 Central Springs (32-1) in a 2A semifinal at 5:30 Wednesday afternoon.
Regina has won three state championships since 2011. And these are the types of games the Regals usually seem to win here.
“This is every kid’s dream,” Laughlin said. “I’m so happy. This was amazing.”
Van Meter (30-10) held a 4-0 lead after two innings, and still was in front, 5-2, as the Regals came to bat in the bottom of the fifth.
A walk to Avery Kies and a single by Laughlin set the stage for Courtney Kessler, who delivered a two-run single to make it 5-4. Kennedy Conner’s RBI double — her third hit in three plate appearances — got the Regals even at 5-5.
“We started getting more and more hits, and it just clicked for us,” Conner said. “There was no doubt we could come back.”
Jillian Panther started the winning rally in the sixth with a single. She was erased on a fielder’s choice by Morgan Gahan.
Gahan advanced on a wild pitch and moved to third on Kies’ single, then scored on Laughlin’s sacrifice fly to center.
The Regals nearly coughed up the lead in the seventh, starting with two consecutive errors. With one out, Beth Button singled to center, but Laughlin fielded the ball cleanly and threw out Maia Abrahamson at the plate by two steps.
Laughlin gloved Maddie Waldorf’s fly ball moments later for the final out.
Van Meter jumped in front on Macy Blomgren’s two-run home run in the first inning and a pair of Regina errors in the second.
“As a pitcher, nobody wants to give up a home run in the first inning,” said Nibaur (16-7), the lone senior on the Regina roster. “And four errors, that’s not ideal. But that’s how softball works.
“But we knew we could come back. We call in The Regal Way. A run here, a run there ... ‘OK, we’re back in it.’”
Iowa City Regina 6, Van Meter 5
Class 2A State Quarterfinal, at Fort Dodge
Van Meter 220 010 0 — 5 6 0
Iowa City Regina 001 131 x — 6 9 4
Macy Blomgren, Lilly Prickett (5), Blomgren (5) and Cali Richards. Emma Nibaur and Courtney Kessler. W — Nibaur (16-7). L — Blomgren (7-1). HR — VM: Blomgren (11).