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Road to state set for softball teams

June 26, 2018

REGIONAL | West Monona’s softball program has never competed in the summer portion of the state tournament.

Ranked for the first time this season two weeks ago, the No. 14 Spartans have had a strong season. Batting .398 as a team, the Spartans have five players at or above .400 – junior Ariel Rotnicke sophomores Lexi Lander and Megan Nichols, freshman Mallory McCall and the only senior in the starting lineup, Jennifer Kennedy.

Yet, one of the state’s softball powerhouses, No. 3 Akron-Westfield, resides in the same Region 8, the northern-most school in the sprawling 14-team region which extends to the far southwest part of the state. Coach Todd Colt’s outstanding program has reached state 13 times and a year ago, competed in the consolation bracket for only the second time, finishing fifth.

Monday, schools across the state will begin Class 1A and 2A regional tournament play, 3A schools will start on Tuesday, while 4A and 5A teams will open Thursday. Teams such as No. 3-ranked (2A) Alta/Aurelia and No. 7 (4A) Denison-Schleswig have a strong chance to make a state tournament debut provided they have a productive regional run.

Will there be good teams left out of the state tournament along the way? Sure. Upsets can happen at any time.

A year ago, Westwood made a strong run, winning 16 out of 18 games to reach the 1A state tournament. The Rebels then concluded a 31-11 season by taking third.

Provided everything goes as planned, Westwood and Akron-Westfield could meet in next Friday’s 1A Region 8 semifinal at Akron. West Monona may face the winner of that game.

Two state-ranked teams reside in Class 1A Region 1, No. 6 North Union and No. 13 Newell-Fonda. Fonda was the site of a 4-0 win for the Mustangs over North Union and again, those two teams are on a collision course to meet, but there’s contenders like Western Valley Conference rivals Woodbury Central and River Valley.

Alta/Aurelia and No. 10 West Sioux are the lone state-ranked teams in Class 2A Region 1. Alta/Aurelia, a regional finalist a year ago, is the state’s only remaining undefeated squad and among the teams the Warriors have defeated along the way is West Sioux, a team that blanked state-ranked (3A) Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley at the tournament it hosted in Ireton two weeks ago.

Yet, sleepers also abide in this region. South O’Brien began the season with a 14-0 record, though it was never featured in the state rankings. Hinton will also contend.

Eighth-ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley is looking for its fourth consecutive Class 3A state tournament berth. The Nighthawks and No. 11 Spirit Lake are the leading contenders in 3A Region 1.

Spirit Lake hasn’t reached the state tournament since 2014. Two of the Indians’ losses have come to Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and a leading contender, Lakes Conference rival Cherokee, which began the season with a 9-1 mark.

Sioux Center, a year ago, reached the Class 3A state tournament, despite competing in the same conference as the Nighthawks. The Warriors are also a contender in the region.

Class 4A Region 1 also promises to be competitive. This is the region where Denison-Schleswig resides, a team that starts only three seniors.

Three more teams could contend for state tournament berths in this region. Sergeant Bluff-Luton is hoping for a second consecutive 4A state tournament berth. Bishop Heelan, a Class 4A state tournament entry in 2016, was denied a state bid when Le Mars posted an upset in last year’s regional semifinals and the Bulldogs then fell to SB-L.

Sioux City’s three 5A teams (East, North, West) are in Region 1, where seventh-ranked Fort Dodge and No. 10 Urbandale are the lead contenders. East received a bye, but faces Urbandale in the semifinals, while Fort Dodge will draw the North/West winner.