IOWA CITY — Iowa City Regina wants to finish what it started and the Regals even printed that phrase on their state baseball tournament shirts.
The title trek began well before they make their second straight state appearance and earlier than the end of last year’s run. The Regals set their sights on a state championship from the first moments many of the 10 seniors played varsity.
“The biggest thing is just looking back on what we’ve put in the past four years,” Regina senior Ryne Schooley said. “Last year, we made the semifinals and we’re not satisfied with that.
“We’re finishing what we started as in the work we’ve put in and what we missed out on last year.”
Top-seeded Regina will face Treynor in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament Monday, starting at 11 a.m. at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The Regals (27-7) have qualified for the eighth time, but are trying to capture their first crown.
“I think we’re ready,” Regina Coach Jeff Pacha said. “The guys seem focused. They’ve been getting after it quite a bit to be prepared.”
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Regina’s run a year ago was upended by eventual state champion Dyersville Beckman. In the days following the loss, players began showing up at the school’s diamond. They toiled to progress and continued that through the offseason, playing tough competition in fall leagues and spring ball.
“We started getting work in,” Regina’s Trent Hoogerwerf said. “We started taking ground balls and batting practice. We kept that rolling through the winter.”
Hoogerwerf said eight or more seniors consistently attended workouts, lifting and traveling to North Liberty to hit in a friend’s batting cage.
“We wanted more,” said Schooley, noting weight-room sessions helped improve physical strength and mental focus. “We spent a lot of hours. It will be nice to see that pay off, hopefully, this year.”
The time and effort outside of the season is easy to do when you have a huge class of players who have been playing together since they were about 9 years old. According to Pacha, baseball is the priority for most of those 10 seniors, including five with plans to play in college. They share a passion for the game.
“We’re really tight-knit,” Schooley said. “We hang outside of baseball. Then, when baseball time comes we can’t get away from each other.
“In practice, it feels like we’re always pushing each other. We know each other’s tendencies. We know what everyone can do. When you see someone not giving their best you can call them out for it.”
Pacha has recognized the gains. He has seen the impact on every single Regal.
“Heading into the season, I’ve noticed improvement across the board,” Pacha said. “I don’t think any of our players haven’t gotten significantly better.”
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Regina’s offense ranks among the best in 2A. It is in the top five in many categories, including third in hits (334) and home runs (16). The Regals’ 281 runs are fifth, leading to an average of 8.3 per game. Regina’s .459 on-base percentage and .360 batting average are fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Regals’ faith in their teammates is another strength.
“We’re all confident in each other,” Hoogerwerf said. “One through nine, I don’t think there is ever a doubt whether they will get the job done.”
The Regina pitching staff has demonstrated that support for one another. The Regals were without the services of Schooley due to an arm injury. He led Regina with a 7-1 record and 85 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.
Mitch Gahan has stepped into that No. 1 spot, going 8-2 with a 1.39 earned-run average. Nick Brandt (4-2) and Ryan Schott (2-1) have made six starts apiece. Jayden Kies pitched two varsity innings before this season. He joined the rotation and is 5-0 with a 0.54 ERA, earning the victory in the 4-1 district final over Eddyville EBF.
“I think it’s a fun dynamic to watch,” Pacha said. “There haven’t been a lot of excuses or distractions.
“They are all about each other. Everybody is happy to step in and fill any role that needs filled.”
Treynor (19-13) lost to Regina in the first round at state last year. The Regals don’t want the long journey to be over until Saturday, hoisting a gold trophy at the end.
“Our goal is to finish the job,” Pacha said. “Go after something that hasn’t been done. These seniors have three games maximum left to play together. We want to play all three of those (and) come out with not having lost one.”
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