Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
Flipping the calendar to July means it is fireworks time in high school softball season.
After cramming up to 40 games into a six-week regular season the schedule slows down with the opening of postseason play but the stakes go way up in the win or go home format.
Every team wants to end the season with a bang and that means a trip to the state softball tournament that runs July 16-20 at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
Here are five things to watch as area teams attempt to secure spots at the state tournament.
Defending Class 2A champion Regina won’t need to leave home to earn a fourth straight state tournament trip.
The tenth-ranked Regals open their title defense at home on Tuesday against Aplington-Parkersburg (4-20) and as the top seed in 2A, Region 6 have home field advantage throughout regional play.
Regina (20-15) has made a habit of peaking during the postseason the past few seasons.
The Regals have reached the state title game each of the past three seasons winning titles in 2015 and again last season.
Regina lost four straight during the final week of the regular season but rebounded to win its final three regular season games.
Ninth-ranked North Linn (36-4) is the two seed in the Region 6 bracket, brings a 15-game winning streak into the postseason and looms as the most likely regional final opponent for Regina.
Solon and Benton Community haven’t met in two seasons and have played just once since squaring off in the state title game in 2015.
The two WAMAC power programs are one win away from their first postseason meeting since the Spartans 3-1 win in the 3A championship three seasons ago.
Solon and Benton are both big favorites in their 3A, Region 6 quarterfinals on Thursday as No. 10 Solon (25-7) hosts South Tama (3-25) and Benton (24-14) takes on Iowa Falls (11-20).
Wins from both would set up a semifinal showdown on Thursday in Solon between two of the top programs in eastern Iowa over the past several seasons.
Benton followed up its runner-up finish in 2015 with a 3A title of its own in 2016.
Both teams missed a state tournament trip a year ago after falling in the regional finals.
City High proved to be a dangerous team throughout the regular season.
What makes the Little Hawks an even more unenviable opponent in the one-and-done postseason mode?
Few teams pound the ball like City High.
City High (21-17) ranks third in Class 5A and sixth in the state with 30 home runs this season with nine different Little Hawks contributing to the long ball total.
The Little Hawks rank seventh in 5A in doubles with 66 and of the 305 hits for City High this season 101 have gone for extra bases.
Freshman Carey Koenig leads City High with eight home runs but seven Little Hawks have multiple homers.
Sophomores Keli Potter and Sydney Fellows have five home runs and Brooke Bormann has four.
City High opens postseason play at Cedar Rapids Prairie (26-12) in a Class 5A, Region 6 semifinal on Saturday.
The Little Hawks homered five times in a pair of losses to the Hawks last Thursday.
The postseason is the perfect time to put together a hot streak and few players in the state enter the playoffs hotter than Solon junior Taylor Ryan.
Ryan brings a 14-game hitting streak into the Spartans’ 3A, Region 6 opener with South Tama and is hitting .660 during that stretch.
The Solon leadoff hitter has gone 33-for-50 during her current hitting streak, has 11 multi-hit games and has scored 21 runs during the streak.
Ryan is hitting a team-high .568 during the season and leads the Spartans with 51 runs and 33 stolen bases.
It has already been a successful debut for Liberty High.
Liberty High has won 15 games entering play on Monday in its first varsity season.
The Lightning came put an exclamation point on its first season with a strong postseason run.
Liberty High (15-21) travels to Central DeWitt (17-17) on Thursday for a Class 4A, Region 6 quarterfinal with the winner advancing to face Cedar Rapids Xavier in Saturday’s semifinal.
After a 3-10 start to the season the Lightning went 12-11 over their next 23 games.