‘Cardiac Regals’ Strike Again as Top-ranked Regina Rallies Past Northeast in State Tournament Opener
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FORT DODGE – A moniker like the ‘cardiac Regals’ doesn’t stick after just a few close games.
Regina has earned that nickname after years of tight wins and thrilling postseason comebacks.
After yet another come-from-behind postseason win on Tuesday this year’s Regina team has fully embraced the program’s tendency for stressful situations.
“It’s definitely anxiety-inducing,” Regina senior Courtney Kessler said. “But don’t count us out, ever.”
Defending Class 2A state champion Regina erased a pair of one-run deficits before getting a walk-off single from sophomore Kennedy Conner in the eighth inning of a 4-3 win over No. 11 Northeast in a 2A quarterfinal on Tuesday at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
“Even when we are down we never give up, we are the Regals we have our comebacks,” Conner said. “The cardiac Regals, we have to give everyone an interesting game.”
Top-ranked Regina (28-8) trailed 1-0 after one batter and 3-2 entering the sixth before rallying for its 10th consecutive postseason win.
Regina has won four consecutive state tournament games dating back to last season and has trailed in all four of those games.
“We rely on each other, we trust each other and we all do our jobs,” Conner said. “When it comes down to it everyone does what they need to for us to succeed. We are all one big team we aren’t doing it for ourselves we are doing it for each other.”
Tuesday’s win sends Regina into the 2A semifinals where it will face fifth-ranked Interstate 35 (26-12) on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
Interstate 35 defeated fourth-ranked Lisbon 9-5 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
“I am never going to forget this but we have to keep doing it,” Conner said. “We’ve got to try to win more games.”
Regina immediately fell into a deficit on Tuesday when Northeast leadoff hitter Madison Kluever launched a home run to left field to open the game.
It remained 1-0 until the third when Regina leadoff hitter Avery Kies singled with one out and scored on an opposite field triple by Dani Laughlin.
Courtney Kessler gave Regina a 2-1 lead when she scored Laughlin with an RBI ground out.
“These girls are some of the hardest working kids I have seen in high school softball or travel softball or anywhere,” Regina coach Angela Kessler said. “These girls work. Our motto in the offseason is to outwork everyone. If you outwork everyone you will do fine here.”
Northeast regained the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth and held that lead until the bottom of the sixth.
Kessler led off the sixth with a single and scored on RBI groundout by Morgan Gahan to tie the score at 3-3.
“Our lineup is great up and down,” Courtney Kessler said. “I know a lot of teams don’t have that privilege but anyone in our lineup can hit so it makes us more dangerous.”
Regina had a chance to win the game in the seventh but squandered an Alli Clark leadoff single.
The Regals wouldn’t waste their chance in the eighth.
Gabby Sueppel led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a passed ball.
Conner came up with the game winner when she lined a 3-2 pitch into the left center field gap for the game winner.
“She is a bulldog,” Angela Kessler said of Conner. “She is tough as nails. She hugs the plate, she’s all over it and mentally she is so strong in that batter’s box.Every single time at bat she is as intense as it gets. It’s fun to watch her do that.”
Ashley Webb earned the win for Regina allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out nien and walking two.
After allowing the first three batters to reach in the fourth, Webb retired 15 of the final 18 batters she faced allowing just a pair of walks over the final two innings.
“During the regular season you know everyone you play and you see everyone and we haven’t played these guys since they left our conference two or three years ago and they are totally different so the first inning is always rough,” Courtney Kessler said. “After that first batter we had a game plan and we followed it really well. I am really proud of Ashley.”
Tuesday’s win was the fourth one-run win for the Regals during their current 10-game postseason winning streak and second this season after a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Cardinal in the regional semifinals.
“I knew it was coming,” Courtney Kessler said. “We always have one big inning a game and we hadn’t had our big inning yet. None of us were going home without a state championship trophy and it doesn’t matter if I have to steal it out of that building but we aren’t going home without that trophy.”
Northeast 100 200 00 – 3 7 0
Regina 002 001 01 – 4 8 1
W – Ashley Webb L – Madison Kluever
2B – ICR: Jillian Panther
3B – ICR: Dani Laughlin
HR – NE: Madison Kluever, Ella Trenkamp