What to expect? Eric Stenberg has no idea.
“Some nights, I love the way we’re playing,” said Stenberg, softball coach at Benton Community. “Other nights, we’re our own worst enemy. I don’t have any explanation for what we do some nights.
“I know that we have to clean up our mistakes when the big games come around.”
This one qualifies.
The up-and-down Bobcats (25-14) travel to Solon to face the 10th-ranked Spartans (27-8) in a Class 3A regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.
Somewhat surprisingly, these Wamac Conference squads did not play in regular-season action.
“They’ll be a solid team, well-coached, good pitching and quality kids hitting the ball,” Stenberg said.
And so is Benton, particularly at the top of the order. Shelby Hulsebus leads the state in hitting at .648, and has scored 63 runs. Grace Martensen has driven in 63 runs, Angie Gorkow 51. All figured prominently on the Bobcats’ 2016 state-championship team.
Solon counters with Taylor Ryan (.568, 51 runs) and Madison Rogers (.478, 42 RBIs).
Dyersville Beckman (16-20) pulled a minor upset when it tripped West Delaware in the first round. Next, the Blazers will try to slay a giant; they’ll face top-ranked Davenport Assumption (34-3), the defending 3A state champion.
“It’s an awesome opportunity. I love it,” Beckman Coach Ryan Meissner said. “All we’ve got to be is the best team on the field for one game, and we’ll attack that opportunity.”
The Blazers have won 11 of their last 18 games after a 5-12 start. They have played 1A top-ranked Lansing Kee three times (winning once) and former 4A No. 1 Independence three times (they’re 0-3).
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“Some people look at our record, and I say no ... we’re prepared for this,” Meissner said.
In the other 3A semifinal involving an area ranked team, No. 12 West Liberty (24-10) hosts Williamsburg (24-14). The Raiders have won 19 of their last 21 games.
Class 2A ninth-ranked North Linn and No. 10 Iowa City Regina appear to be on a collision course to meet in a regional final. North Linn (37-4) hosts MFL MarMac (15-16) Friday; Regina (21-15) — the defending state champion — hosts Denver (10-22). No. 14 Jesup (25-11) entertains Wilton (23-15).
The final four teams in 1A Region 4 are a formidable four; top-rated and two-time defending state champ Lansing Kee (34-5) hosts Central City (32-10), and No. 9 Lisbon (31-8) faces No. 14 Calamus-Wheatland (23-7) and Bunting Field.
Also in 1A, No. 8 Sigourney (21-6) hosts New London (18-9).
Regional finals in 3A, 2A and 1A are Monday.
Friday's Class 3A regional semifinals
All games, 7 p.m.
North Fayette Valley (18-10) at Waterloo Columbus (36-2)
New Hampton (22-10) at Crestwood (23-9)
West Marshall (22-8) at Eddyville EBF (29-7)
Benton Community (25-14) at Solon (27-8)
West Burlington (27-12) at Albia (28-4)
Williamsburg (24-14) at West Liberty (24-10)
Dyersville Beckman (16-20) at Davenport Assumption (34-3)
Mount Vernon (22-17) at Camanche (27-8)
Friday's Class 2A regional semifinals
All games, 7 p.m.
Denver (10-22) at Iowa City Regina (21-15)
MFL MarMac (15-16) at North Linn (37-4)
Bellevue (14-11) at Durant (32-2)
Wilton (23-15) at Jesup (25-11)
Friday's Class 1A regional semifinals
All games, 7 p.m.
BGM (17-8) at Clarksville (20-5)
North Butler (20-10) at Janesville (24-11)
Central City (32-10) at Lansing Kee (34-5)
Calamus-Wheatland (23-7) at Lisbon (31-8)
New London (18-9) at Sigourney (21-6)
North Mahaska (20-8) at Lynnville-Sully (19-14)
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