Scheels Athlete of the Week: Regina's Gardner Playing Her Best at the Right Time

img

Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – The goal for every athlete is to be performing at their highest level as their career winds down.

Few can claim to have achieved that goal better than Paisley Gardner.

Gardner hasn’t just saved her best work in a Regina uniform for her senior season in which she is leading the Regals with a career-high .415 batting average and 35 RBI.

Instead, Gardner has taken her performance to another level with the season on the line.

Gardner is hitting .722 over her final six games including a 6-for-10 showing in three consecutive Regina regional wins.

“I am just realizing right now that it could be my last game and I want to bring out the best in our team and me personally,” Gardner said. “I want to make the most of every opportunity.”

Gardner has been playing at a high level all season.

After hitting .241 with three home runs and 20 RBI in the first extended action of her career a year ago, Gardner has become a staple in the middle of the Regina order.

She has leads tenth-ranked Regina (23-15) in hits (44), doubles (9), RBI (35), batting average and slugging percentage (.500).

“She has been a really tough out,” first-year Regina head coach Jake Koolbeck said. “She is a great fixture for us in the middle of our lineup.”

In addition to her best offensive season Gardner also turned in her best year in the circle.

The left-hander posted a 5-0 record and 1.47 ERA in 43 innings as a change of pace behind ace Katie Bracken.

“My hitting has improved but my pitching improved a lot too,” Gardner said. “I think that was the biggest improvement that I made, it was a good year for my pitching too.”

As good as Gardner has been throughout the season she has been nothing short of fantastic as the season winds down.

Gardner is 17-of-27 over the last nine games and has three doubles an 11 RBI during that stretch.

“She has been in the zone,” Koolbeck said. “I knew from when I saw her swing in the winter that she could really help us with her bat. She had a little bit of an injury early in the year and she has just continued to get better and better.”

The later the season goes the better Gardner seems to get.

She is hitting .714 over the last four games and had the game-winning two-run double in a 2-0 win over North Linn in the 2A, Region 6 title game on Monday.

 “I feel like I am hitting the ball as well as I can right now,” Gardner said. “I can always get better but I’m hitting the ball really well right now.”

Gardner will now get the chance to continue her hot hitting at the state tournament in Fort Dodge next week.

Last season Gardner had three hits including a double in three state tournament games as Regina won its second 2A title in the past three seasons.

Now she will attempt to end her career on the ultimate high note.

“I’m so happy to be able to play at Fort Dodge again and to be there with my teammates,” Gardner said. “I can’t wait to be able to play there again and hopefully we can keep on winning.”