By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer twitter.com/stjack423
---- — IOWA CITY – Don’t be fooled by the 19-19 record.
Iowa City Regina is anything but a mediocre high school softball team.
After a summer of earning their 19-19 record by playing one of the toughest schedules in the entire state, Regina continued to show the payoff on Friday night by moving within one win of a return trip to the Class 2A State Softball Tournament. The Regals jumped out to an early lead and held off a pair of rallies by 14th-ranked Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont to score a 6-3 win in the Class 2A, Region 5 Semifinals.
“Bottom line, when you come to a game like this you don’t want to lose it. You want to make the other team beat you,” EBF head coach Tony Fenton said. “It was just a classic case of one team hitting the ball in places where the other team wasn’t. That just happened to be Regina. For whatever reason, every ball they hit got past us and every ball we hit seemed to go right to them.”
The reasons for both, in large part, had to do with Regal star utility player Megan Bonnett. The junior showed the ability of an all-state player by out-dueling EBF’s ace junior Nataliah Hopkins in the pitching circle over the first four innings by allowing just one run on three hits.
Meanwhile at the plate, Bonnett got her team off to a good start against Hopkins by drilling an RBI double to right center in the opening inning. Bonnett scored herself on a two-out hit by Jenny Wick as the Regals opened a 2-0 lead after one.
“I was so nervous I was shaking at the beginning of the game,” Bonnett said. “I’m glad I pitched as well as I did and I’m glad I hit as well as I did, but I’m really glad my teammates were right there to help pull me through.”
Bonnett helped pull her teammates through one of the very key moments of the game one inning after Sadie Baugher’s two-out second inning triple cut Regina’s lead in half to 2-1. Singles by Shelby Allgood and Haegen Boyer set up EBF’s top hitter, Tasha Alexander, with a chance to at least tie the game with one out.
A deep fly ball was certainly good enough to do just that. However, Allgood failed to tag up at third which allowed Bonnett the opportunity to get out of the inning with the lead after striking out Hopkins to end the inning.
“We’re talking about young kids here and (Shelby) just got caught up in the moment,” Fenton said. “That’s something we work on all the time. I know I was yelling at her to get back, but she just froze. It’s just one of those things that happens.”
“I thought she was going to tag, but our centerfielder Gabby (Dutchik) has a great arm,” Bonnett added. “I think it still would have been close play even if she would have tagged up.”
Instead of giving up the lead, Bonnett helped add to the cushion in the third by leading off the third with her second-straight double to right center. The second-straight gapper led to a second-straight run for the Regina junior, who finished the night collecting just as many hits as she allowed to the Rockets.
“If (EBF) had tied it (in the third), it would have been a whole new ballgame,” Bonnett said. “I think when we were able to keep the lead at that point, we felt like we had to hit and we had to get more runs if we were going to win.”
“Bonnett did so much damage at the plate. That was really the biggest key,” Fenton added. “We finally pitched carefully to her the fourth time around, but she had done plenty to hurt us by that point.”
The third hit of the night for Bonnett came in the fourth inning, which saw Regina score its fifth run of the night to open a 5-1 lead. With a season hanging in the balance and Bonnett having been taken off the mound by head coach Jon Prottsman, EBF made one last run at keeping its state tournament hopes alive in the sixth as the Rockets used two walks, a Jarrah Jensen single, two Regina errors and two Regina pitching changes in a wild sixth inning to pull within 5-3.
“It’s kind of difficult being pulled out as a pitcher and being put back in,” Bonnett said after having to return to face two batters in the sixth. “I think if I had been a little warmer, I could have done a little better in that moment.”
No. 14 EBF loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, needing one more hit to potentially complete its comeback. Instead, leadoff hitter Paige Shafer flew out to right as the Rockets were retired in order in the seventh to cap a 25-9 season.
“We do lose three good seniors that provided good leadership, but we have a good nucleus that’s coming back including another group of juniors that will be good leaders next year,” Fenton said. “We had a great year. We achieved a goal of finishing with less than 10 losses and made it one step further in the postseason. We’ve got a good group coming back to try and go even further next year.”
Iowa City Regina took on 32-3, fourth-ranked Highland Monday in the 2A, Region 5 final at Iowa City West to determine a berth in the 2A state softball tournament.
Class 2A, Region 5 Semifinals
Iowa City Regina 6, No. 14 Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 3
EBF 010 002 0 — 3 4 3
ICR 202 101 x — 6 11 2
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont battery — Nataliah Hopkins (L, 22-8) (6IP, 11H, 6R, 4ER, BB, HBP), Jarrah Jensen catching.
3B — Sadie Baugher.
Hits — Baugher 1-2, Shelby Allgood 1-3, J. Jensen 1-3, Haegen Boyer 1-4.
RBI — Baugher, J. Jensen.
Runs — Tasha Alexander, Makenzie Jensen, Ashley Pilcher.
Iowa City Regina battery — Megan Bonnett (W, 9-8) (4IP, 3H, R, ER, 3K, BB), Hannah Stein (IP, H, 2R, BB), Bonnett (1/3IP, BB) and Allison Stein (S, 2) (1 2/3IP), Katie Wick catching.
2B — Bonnett 2.
Hits — Bonnett 3-4, H. Stein 2-3, K. Wick 2-4, Jenna Lehman 1-2, Jenny Wick 1-2, Kennedy Brown 1-3, Gabby Dutchik 1-3.
RBI — H. Stein 2, J. Wick 2, Bonnett.
Runs — Bonnett 2, Lehman 2, Brown, H. Stein.