Warriors open state vs. Regals

FORT DODGE, Iowa – North Union and Iowa City Regina did not cross paths during the 2015 Iowa Class 2A state softball tournament at the Rogers Sports Complex.

Ironically, Jon Prottsman’s defending state champion and No. 7-ranked Regals (26-17), and Art Ingalls’ No. 4-ranked Warriors (32-4) – who placed sixth a year ago – clash to open this year’s Class 2A competition in Tuesday’s 11:30 a.m. state quarterfinals on Mittera Field in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

“I don’t know much about Regina except for the fact that they’re the defending state champion in our class,” said Ingalls, who engineered the program’s fourth state appearance since 2010. “Obviously, I’ll have some research to do before the tournament starts.

“You can look at their statistics on QuikStats, but those just tell you what their overall raw numbers are on the season. How a team plays in the regional coming down the stretch is an important factor.”

Coincidentally, Regina’s offensive production during its three-game run in Region 5 action resembled the Regals’ regular-season numbers. Regina outscored North Cedar, Maquoketa Valley and Pella Christian by a combined 13-2 margin.

Meanwhile, North Union amassed 20 runs in consecutive Region 2 victories over Sibley-Ocheyedan, Okoboji and Panorama, respectively, while allowing only two runs in the process.

“I’d say our team’s strength this year is hitting, especially from a power perspective,” Art Ingalls said in reference to his potent lineup’s lofty .351 batting average, paced by 27 home runs, and a staggering 275 RBIs.

The high-octane Warriors also have generated 326 runs and swiped 110 bases to create havoc for opposing hurlers.

Across the diamond, Prottsman’s Regals have clouted 17 home runs to produce 195 RBIs and 217 runs. Regina, which stole only 35 bases, hit at a modest .281 clip as a team.

“If I read QuikStats correctly, I believe our two main starting pitchers match up closely,” said Art Ingalls.

Indeed. North Union junior right-hander Anna Ingalls has compiled an impressive 25-2 record and 1.75 ERA by striking out 212 batters in 148 innings pitched. Opposing batters are hitting her deliveries at a .199 average.

Ironically, Anna Ingalls has recorded 36 strikeouts en route to giving up only two runs in 21 postseason frames inside the pitcher’s circle.

Regina junior hurler Sarah Lehman proves a near carbon copy of Ingalls while toeing the pitching rubber.

Lehman, an all-state selection in 2015, has assembled a 13-10 record and 1.32 ERA on the strength of 265 strikeouts in 170 inning worked. The ace right-hander has limited opposing hitters to a .156 average.

More importantly, Lehman has allowed just two runs on four hits in 21 postseason innings, while notching 40 strikeouts.

“Those are the keys every time out, especially in the state tournament – your pitcher has to keep the opposing hitters off-balanced, and your defense has to field every chance cleanly,” said Art Ingalls. “A little luck doesn’t hurt either.”

Lehman will look to hold North Union’s lethal 1-2 power punch of senior first baseman Sarah Rolling and sophomore shortstop Kate Anderson from clearing the outfield fence with one quick turn of the wrist in Tuesday’s state opener.

Rolling, a 2015 all-state choice, topped the Warriors’ offensive charts in every major category by launching 14 home runs to pile up 55 RBIs. Rolling enters the state quarterfinals with a team-best .462 batting average, 13 doubles and 53 runs scored.

Anderson follows Rolling closely in the HR department by drilling nine round-trippers en route to 39 RBIs. The Warriors’ cleanup batter hits at a .391 clip and has generated 37 run scored.

Across the diamond, Regina senior shortstop Kennedy Brown and freshman first baseman Katie Bracken represent the top long-ball threats.

Brown, a 2015 all-state choice, tops the Regals with a .441 batting average, seven home runs, 13 doubles, 35 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. She also has generated 24 RBIs.

Bracken leads Regina with 33 RBIs on the strength of a .339 batting clip, including two home runs. The freshman phenom also has produced 10 doubles, two triples and crossed the plate 16 times.

Ironically, Bracken and Kate Anderson also are their respective teams’ up-and-coming pitchers behind starters Lehman and Anna Ingalls, respectively.

“We played 11 ranked teams during the season, and posted a 9-2 record against them, so I think we can hold our own,” said Art Ingalls. “It’s hard to believe that they (the Regals) have 17 losses.”

Eight of Regina’s defeats are at the hands of five Class 5A or 4A ranked lineups, with three coming to highly-ranked Class 2A schools.

“You can’t look past anybody when you reach this level because everyone’s probably ranked, and they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good,” said Art Ingalls.

In Monday’s first two Class 2A state quarterfinals in Fort Dodge, No. 1-ranked Durant (35-4) faces No. 13-ranked BCLUW (29-8) at 7 p.m. at the Buena Vista University Field, while No. 5 Interstate-35 (27-3) battles No. 6 Van Meter (30-7) at 7:30 p.m. at Mittera Field.

No. 3 Logan-Magnolia (32-2) squares off against No. 10 Central Springs (34-3) at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the BVU Field before North Union and Iowa City Regina clash at 11:30 a.m. at Mittera Field.