Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Stop if you have heard this story before.
A Regina team that took some lumps early in the season against a loaded schedule rounds into form and is playing its best softball entering the postseason.
If you’ve paid attention to area softball over the last decade it’s a familiar formula Regina has followed to reach the state tournament six of the last nine seasons.
Don’t look now but the Regals appear to be well on their way to another late-season surge.
Class 2A sixth-ranked Regina pushed its winning streak to four with a 2-0 win over Monticello on Tuesday in its home regular season finale.
“We kind of say that is the Regal way,” Regina senior pitcher Emma Nibaur said. “Playing together for a longer period of time others may get tired of it but we thrive off of that time together and we put it together at the end.”
Nibaur spun a two-hit shutout and sophomore shortstop Gabby Sueppel had two hits and scored a run as Regina won for the eighth time in its last 10 games.
Regina improved to 18-10 on the season and 8-4 in River Valley Conference play while Monticello dropped to 8-18 and 5-9.
“I think we’ve improved a lot,” Sueppel said. “Our practices are great and getting those reps has helped us continue to improve each game.”
Regina started its strong 10-game stretch with a non-conference win over Marion on June 18.
The only losses during the stretch are a 2-1 setback at Mid-Prairie and a loss to 4A No. 13 Fairfield.
Regina earned wins over a trio of top-five ranked teams from larger classes at the Clear Creek Amana tournament last weekend downing 3A third-ranked Williamsburg, 4A fifth-ranked Carlisle and 4A third-ranked Clear Creek Amana by a combined score of 21-9.
“That was a huge confidence builder for everyone,” Nibaur said. “It really opened our eyes to see we could play up to a higher level.”
Regina continued that momentum on Tuesday with one of the constants during its past late-season runs – strong pitching.
Nibaur allowed just three base runners on a pair of singles and a walk and struck out eight against the Panthers.
“For sure getting a head in the count is always one of my goals,” Nibaur said. “I had a different catcher tonight than I am used to but Laci (Chambliss) and I worked really well together and that helped. Starting on top was really nice and I had great defense behind me that made all the plays.”
Another factor for the Regals in its late-season success has been solid defense.
Regina played errorless ball on Tuesday getting several strong plays from Sueppel at short and a nifty diving catch by left fielder Natalie Gahan.
“I think our communication has improved immensely,” Nibaur said. “We are talking on the field and off the field which is nice. Before we were more quiet, we were more nervous and we weren’t used to the positions because we have such young players but we’ve gotten familiar with the positions we are playing now, our defense has really improved and our hitting is coming together which is nice.”
Regina took advantage of a Monticello error to take an early lead.
Avery Kies reached on an error leading off the game and after a Sueppel single scored on Laci Chambliss RBI bunt.
“We practice bunting and moving runners and hitting in those situations,” Sueppel said. “Our hitting has been really good but we can play that way also.”
Regina tacked on a run in the fourth when Sueppel led off with a double to left and scored on a Panther fielding error.
That was all the support Nibaur would need as she retired 18 of the final 19 hitters she faced allowing just a two-out single to Mallory Steiner in the seventh inning over the final five innings.
“Limiting our errors is a huge thing for us and keep hitting,” Nibaur said. “We need to be able to move runners and play small ball and keep moving runners so we are scoring.”
Monticello 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
Regina 100 100 x – 2 4 0
W – Emma Nibaur L – Jordan Fangmann
2B – ICR: Avery Kies, Gabby Sueppel