FORT DODGE – Alta-Aurelia struck first in its first appearance ever at the Iowa Girls High School State Softball Championships. Iowa City Regina took over from there.
The third-seeded Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but walks, key errors and a few big hits sent Class 2A defending state champion Iowa City Regina to the 7-2 victory at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex here Monday.
“We heard when you come down there it is a little tighter of a zone so we were ready for that and there was some nerves,” Alta-Aurelia coach Dave Turnquist said. “It is our first time here.”
Junior pitcher Abby Kraemer was equal parts dominant and erratic for the Warriors as she struck out 15 in her state debut but also issued nine walks.
“Yes, there was nerves, but it was more like I want to play,” Kraemer said. “Our main goal was to get here and once you are here you have nothing to lose. Whatever happens, happens.”
Turnquist liked how his pitcher battled even when she struggled with control at times.
“I liked how she battled through it because when she was younger this might have been a struggle when we started having some walk issues,” he said. “She kept battling and that is what it takes.”
Alta-Aurelia saw Kraemer work past two walks in the first inning to record all three outs on strikeouts. The Warriors struck as Annika Patton reached on an error and scored on Lily Peterson’s double to left field as Alta-Aurelia’s large crowd roared its approval.
“They pitched Lily outside and she did what we train to do and go with it and send it to the opposite field,” Turnquist said.
Sixth-seeded Regina, which has won two of the past three 2A state titles, tied the game in the top of the third without the benefit of a hit. Carrigan O’Conner reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. She would score one pitch later on another passed ball.
The Regals took the lead an inning later as Taylor O’Conner walked to begin the frame and stole second. Ellie Gahan drove her in with a double to left field, the first hit of the game for Regina.
Alta-Aurelia had runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but Regina pitcher Katie Bracken got a flyout and a strikeout to end the inning. Bracken, like Kraemer, allowed just five hits in the game but walked just two and struck out eight.
The Regals (24-15), who play numerous larger schools throughout the season, came into state having shut out its past five opponents.
Regina put the game away in the sixth inning as Kraemer issued three straight one-out walks before getting her 13th strikeout of the game. However, Bracken smacked a single to center to score two runs and Paisley Gardner followed with a double to bring in two more runs to make it 6-1.
“They are a good team and you know at some time they are going to put the ball in play, and between some walks and some hits they strung stuff together,” Turnquist said. “That is what it takes. You have to string stuff together in this game.”
Each team added a single run in the seventh as the Warriors saw Jessica Larson reach on an error and score on Patton’s groundout.
Jessica Flaherty finished with two hits for the Warriors while Peterson had just one it but the senior Morningside College commit, who has 13 home runs on the season and 37 for her career, was intentionally walked twice.
Alta-Aurelia (22-4) will face Earlham at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday while the Regals will face Des Moines Christian in the semifinals Wednesday.