The West Branch softball team feels like it’s the best club in Class 2A with a losing record.
On Tuesday, the Bears made their case, rolling Iowa Valley 12-0 in three innings to open up postseason play in a regional first-round game.
The win broke a six-game losing streak for West Branch (15-19).
“We needed a game like this,” West Branch coach Jason Laing said. “One thing we’ve struggled with lately is putting up runs, establishing something offensively.
“Tonight, we finally did, and didn’t stop.”
West Branch plated 12 runs on just six hits, talking advantage of eight walks and two hit batsmen by Iowa Valley (14-16).
The Bears scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning. Dalana Kron had a bunt single to start the inning and later scored on a passed ball.
By the time Megan Tadlock had an RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch, the Bears had five runs in the first inning — which was more runs than they had scored in any game during their six-game skid.
“It’s been hard,” Tadlock said of the losing streak. “It’s hard to lose by one run.”
The Bears have a 0-9 record in one-run games this season.
“We’ve lost a lot of games by one run,” junior Mary Baldwin said. “We’re really close. We’re off by one hit, maybe one error. It’ OK.”
Baldwin used that big lead to her advantage in the circle for the Bears. She pitched three perfect innings — nine up and nine down — striking out five.
The Tigers tried three different pitchers. Tadlock ended the game with a two out, three-run triple in the bottom of the third inning.
No one else needed to bat. The Bears were up by 12 runs after three innings.
“We had a little slump last week,” Baldwin said. “This pumped us up for tomorrow.”
The Bears advance to face Pekin at 7 p.m. today in Pekin. The Panthers beat the Bears 12-11 on June 22 — one of those one-run losses.
“We had a big lead, but it was the third game for our pitcher that day, and she finally ran out of gas,” Laing said. “We know we can play with them.”
Baldwin was excited to get another shot at Pekin.
“It was the end of a really hot day,” Baldwin said. “When we’re all fresh, I think we can win.”
Despite their record, the Bears are aiming high in the postseason. Their roster includes 10 freshmen and two eighth-graders, and Laing said they need to play with an edge.
“The young kids have no idea what the postseason even means,” Laing said. “We’ve got to get that excitement back in it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
“But if we play like we did tonight, we’ll have the opportunity.”
Megan Kaestner, Chandler Whitehead (1), Mariah Fillenworth (3) and Gretchen Slaymker; Mary Baldwin and Paige Miller. W – Baldwin. L – Kaestner. 2B – Miranda Wieneke (WB). 3B – Megan Tadlock (WB).