Prep Softball

Iowa high school softball regional finals: West Liberty looks to play giant-slaying role

Comets take their shot at 3-time defending state 3A champion Davenport Assumption

West Liberty softball coach Chad Libby encourages his players during last year's state tournament. The Comets face three
West Liberty softball coach Chad Libby encourages his players during last year’s state tournament. The Comets face three-time defending state champion Davenport Assumption in a Class 3A regional final Monday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

You can view it that West Liberty drew the short straw when Class 3A softball pairings were drawn.

Or you can consider the opportunity that the Comets have Monday night.

“We knew that if we got to this point, it was going to be a challenge,” West Liberty Coach Chad Libby said. “But we’re going to go into it with a lot of confidence. There’s no reason we won’t play well Monday.”

The seventh-ranked Comets (14-1) take their shot at No. 2 Davenport Assumption (18-5) — the three-time defending state champion — in a 3A regional final. First pitch is 7 p.m.

It’s one of six games involving area teams Monday, with winners advancing to the state tournament next week. Also in 3A, No. 3 Williamsburg (22-4) hosts Benton Community (15-8), and No. 8 Anamosa (13-1) visits No. 5 Mount Vernon (19-4).

In 2A, top-rated, defending-champion North Linn (22-0) hosts Waterloo Columbus (10-5), and Iowa City Regina (9-13) is at No. 4 Northeast (18-2). No. 8 Lisbon (19-3) welcomes No. 13 Central City (11-4) in the lone area 1A game.

Eastern Iowa overflows with strong teams in 3A, and it was impossible to separate all of them for the postseason. Thus, the West Liberty-Assumption and Anamosa-Mount Vernon matchups.

“When you face a powerhouse like Assumption, it’s always a concern that you’ll be a little intimidated,” Libby said. “The kids are aware that they play in a 4A/5A conference. But we’re an older, experienced team, and we’re not going to panic.”

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The Benton-Williamsburg matchup is a rematch of a season-opening doubleheader between the squads on opening night. Williamsburg won both games, 8-3 and 14-6.

“Offensively, I think we’ve come a long ways,” Benton Coach Eric Stenberg said. “We’re hitting the ball fairly well. We’ve got the pieces to give them a challenge. They didn’t get our best effort the first time. I hope we can give them our best effort (Monday).”

After back-to-back 1A third-place state finishes, Lisbon lost its pitchers to graduation. But freshman Ryleigh Allgood, who moved from Lisbon to Missouri in elementary school, moved back last fall. She has posted a 15-2 record and 1.71 ERA.

“She’s done a good job,” said Lions Coach Bob Bunting, who crossed the 1,200-win plateau earlier this season. “She has a variety of pitches, good velocity.

“I didn’t quite anticipate this at the beginning of the year. Pitching was going to be a question mark, but we’re also probably hitting the ball better than we did last year.”

Class 3A regional finals

Region 1: No. 15 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (13-3) at No. 12 Spirit Lake (13-2), 7 p.m.

Region 2: MOC-Floyd Valley (11-6) at No. 4 Humboldt (19-2), 7 p.m.

Region 3: Creston (12-5) at No. 10 Atlantic (17-1), 7 p.m.

Region 4: Eddyville EBF (14-8) at No. 1 Albia (18-1), 7 p.m.

Region 5: Benton Community (15-8) at No. 3 Williamsburg (22-4)

Time & place: 7 p.m., Jim Turner Field, Williamsburg

Overview: These Wamac Conference West Division rivals opened the season together June 15, with Williamsburg earning a sweep, 8-3 and 14-6. The Raiders, chasing their first state appearance since 2002, are on a nine-game winning streak, including a 6-1 victory over Roland-Story in the regional semifinals. Jill Holub and Elle Ridgeway are the big bats in the middle of the lineup, combining for nine home runs and 57 RBIs. Ridgeway is a freshman, as is pitcher Peyton Driscoll (13-3, 1.15 ERA, 160 strikeouts). Despite six errors, Benton edged Solon, 3-2, Friday and is an upset win away from its fourth state trip in six years (the Bobcats were 3A champions in 2016). Benton has won eight games in a row and has picked up the pace offensively lately. Coach Eric Stenberg gets a lot of mileage out of the top of his order; Emma Townsley is hitting .456 and has scored 22 runs, and Alyse Harvey bats .538 and leads the team in both runs (23) and RBIs (25).

Region 6: No. 11 Crestwood (15-0) at No. 6 Algona (15-1), 7 p.m.

Region 7: No. 8 Anamosa (13-1) at No. 5 Mount Vernon (19-4)

Time & place: 7 p.m., Mount Vernon High School

Overview: Mount Vernon is pursuing its fifth state appearance under Coach Robin Brand. The Mustangs have been air-tight with their pitching and defense lately, allowing two runs in the last seven games. That includes a pair of regional shutouts over Vinton-Shellsburg and Independence. Anamosa has matched that, blanking Monticello and Sumner-Fredericksburg in postseason action. Anamosa’s last state trip was in 1996, when the Raiders were 2A runners-up. Brad Holub is in his second year at Anamosa, and the program has climbed dramatically with a 44-6 two-year mark. The Raiders reached the regional finals last year before falling to West Liberty. Ellie Tallman and Emily Watters are hitting better than .500, with Grace Lubben (.477, 5 home runs) the chief power source. Kalli Minger is 12-1 in the circle. The Raiders have won 12 games in a row. For Mount Vernon, Jenna Sprague (13-2, 1.00 ERA) is the likely starter. The Mustangs have a balanced offense, ignited by Nadia Telecky (.469, 30 runs) and Nicole Sullivan (.419, 26 RBIs).

Region 8: No. 7 West Liberty (14-1) at No. 2 Davenport Assumption (18-5)

Time & place: 7 p.m., St. Vincent Athletic Complex, Davenport

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Overview: Assumption is on a short list of schools that have won three consecutive state championships, and a fourth would put the Knights in a league of their own in Iowa history. They have shown some cracks lately, though, with all five of their losses coming in July. That provides hope for West Liberty, which brought back eight starters from a team that finished third at state in 2019 under Coach Chad Libby. The Comets are on a nine-game win streak, including a come-from-behind win over Camanche in the first round of the tournament. They followed with a 3-0 victory over West Burlington in the regional semifinals. Seniors Austyn Crees (.524) and Haylee Lehman (.500, 24 runs) are the key drivers of the offense, and Janey Gingerich and Sailor Hall are two more-than-capable pitchers. Anna Wohlers has 10 home runs and 30 RBIs for Assumption, which run-ruled its first two regional foes.

 

Class 2A regional finals

Region 1: Underwood (13-4) at No. 5 West Monona (20-1), 7 p.m.

Region 2: No. 10 Mount Ayr (9-4) at No. 9 Earlham (19-4), 7 p.m.

Region 3: Ridge View (10-8) at No. 8 West Lyon (12-2), 7 p.m.

Region 4: No. 12 East Marshall (15-2) at No. 3 Ogden (18-3), 7 p.m.

Region 5: No. 11 Emmetsburg (13-2) at No. 6 Central Springs (16-3), 7 p.m.

Region 6: Waterloo Columbus (10-5) at No. 1 North Linn (22-0)

Time & place: 7 p.m., North Linn High School, Troy Mills

Overview: The defending 2A state champion, North Linn carries a 28-game winning streak. The Lynx have blasted their opponents by a 251-25 margin this season, but had a few anxious moments early in Friday’s regional semifinal. It was scoreless through three innings before the Lynx pulled away from Hudson in a 6-0 win, their ninth shutout of the season. Pitcher Abby Flanagan is 14-0 this season and has won more than 100 games in her career. She owns a 0.37 ERA and has struck out 118. Hannah Bridgewater is hitting .519 with 44 runs and 40 stolen bases, and Grace Flanagan (.508) has five home runs and 33 RBIs. Columbus handled West Fork, 10-1, in the regional semis. Freshman Haile Frost is 10-4 in the circle with a 2.41 ERA for the Sailors.

Region 7: Iowa City Regina (9-13) at No. 4 Northeast (18-2)

Time & place: 7 p.m., Northeast High School, Goose Lake

Overview: It’s not often that Regina comes into a regional final as a significant underdog, but that’s the case Monday. The Regals face a Northeast squad that has won 10 straight games, and that streak contains an 8-5 victory over Regina on July 2. Junior Annie Gahan is hitting .382 for the Regals and leads the team in runs (20) and RBIs (14). Regina advanced with a 2-1 regional-semifinal win over Cascade. Northeast shared the River Valley Conference North Division title with Anamosa and has a pair of big bats in Bree Mangelsen (.565, 13 doubles, 30 RBIs) and Alexis Ehlers (.534, 12 doubles). Regina has history on its side; the Regals have made six state trips in the last decade, with three titles (2011, 2015, 2017). Northeast has never advanced to state.

Region 8: No. 13 Wilton (14-3) at No. 2 Louisa-Muscatine (17-5), 7 p.m.

 

Class 1A regional finals

Region 1: Le Mars Gehlen (11-8) at No. 7 Akron-Westfield (16-2), 7 p.m.

Region 2: No. 9 Exira-EHK (15-0) at No. 2 Newell-Fonda (17-2), 7 p.m.

Region 3: No. 11 Twin Cedars (20-5) at No. 5 Wayne (16-4), 7 p.m.

Region 4: No. 12 Mason City Newman (18-3) at No. 6 Algona Garrigan (12-6), 7 p.m.

Region 5: No. 10 Martensdale-St. Marys (15-5) at No. 1 Collins-Maxwell (18-1), 7 p.m.

Region 6: New London (9-6) at No. 4 Lynnville-Sully (17-2), 7 p.m.

Region 7: No. 14 Ackley AGWSR (11-4) at No. 3 Clarksville (15-1), 7 p.m.

Region 8: No. 13 Central City (11-4) at No. 8 Lisbon (19-3)

Time & place: 7 p.m., Bob Bunting Field, Lisbon

Overview: After back-to-back third-place state finishes, Lisbon figured to take a step backward after suffering significant graduation losses, including the gutting of its pitching staff. But the return of freshman Ryleigh Allgood (15-2, 1.71 ERA), who moved from Lisbon to Missouri in elementary school, has enabled the Lions to stay at a high level. Lisbon is hitting .405 as a team, led by Peyton Robinson (.527, 32 runs, 27 RBIs) and Stacia Hall (.478, 31 RBIs). Coach Bob Bunting crossed the 1,200-win plateau early this season. Central City has made only one state appearance (1961), but the Wildcats have knocked on the door several times in recent years. Sara Reid pitched a four-inning perfect game as the Wildcats made quick work of Easton Valley, 12-0, in the regional semifinals. The Tri-Rivers Conference rivals did not play in the regular season.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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