FORT DODGE — New coach. Same old story.
A story of glory.
Lauren Marth singled home Carrigan O’Connor with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, and 10th-ranked Iowa City Regina edged No. 4 Des Moines Christian, 1-0, in a Class 2A semifinal at the state softball tournament Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Sports Complex.
That sends Regina (25-15) to the championship game for the fourth consecutive year. The Regals won 2A titles in 2015 and 2017, and settled for second in 2016.
Regina will face No. 3 Louisa-Muscatine (37-6) in the title game at 8:15 Thursday night. The Falcons beat No. 6 Central Springs, 2-1.
It’s the first time for Jake Koolbeck, who succeeded Jon Prottsman as head coach after last season.
“It’s nice to come into a program in which the expectation is to go far,” Koolbeck said. “This is all on the kids.”
O’Connor started the decisive rally with a leadoff infield single, then stole second base. Two outs later, Marth delivered with a liner that center fielder Ashlyn Bakke had to play on the short hop.
“At first I thought she was going to catch it, but as it got closer to her, I knew it was going to get down,” Marth said. “I’m just glad I was able to come through, because I hadn’t done it earlier.”
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Marth was 0-for-3 before her heroics, striking out twice. In all, the Regals fanned 14 times against Lions pitcher Maren Judisch (13-1), but survived to tell about it.
Regina’s Katie Bracken was just as impressive, matching Judisch’s four-hitter and striking out 11. Bracken gave up just one hit in the final five innings, and retired the final nine batters she faced.
“She usually gets stronger as she goes along,” Koolbeck said. “She’s at her best when we need her to be.”
Bracken said, “We definitely felt pressure. But we work well under pressure. Each inning, we gained confidence. Our experience here helps a lot. We’re not as nervous as we used to be.”
Des Moines Christian slipped to 23-7 and dropped into Thursday’s consolation game against Central Springs. The Lions nearly took the lead in the sixth inning; Emma Veenstra rapped a long fly ball to lead off the bottom of the sixth, hitting the fence on the fly.
But Bracken struck out the next two batters and induced a flyout by Brooke Mumford to quell the threat.
Regina had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, thanks to two walks and a single (by Emma Nibaur), but came up empty.
IOWA CITY REGINA 1, DES MOINES CHRISTIAN 0 (8 innings)
Class 2A State Semifinal, at Fort Dodge
Iowa City Regina 000 000 01 — 1 4 2
Des Moines Christian 000 000 00 — 0 4 0
Katie Bracken and Maeve Dunne. Maren Judisch and Alayna Bakke. W — Bracken (16-13). L — Judisch (13-1).
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