So, so close.
Trailing 6-0 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the Regina baseball team stormed back with five runs, but could not complete the rally in a 6-5 loss to Mediapolis Tuesday night in a Class 2A substate final at West High.
The Regals (15-15) batted around in their final inning, tallying five runs on four hits. Two big strikeouts by Mediapolis harbored Regina’s chances, however.
With runners on second and third and one out, Jordan Nelson struck out looking. Three batters later, Mitchell Gahan struck out swinging to end the game. Gahan also struck out to lead off the frame.
“That was a tough one,” Regina coach Jeff Pacha said. “I’m proud of the way they competed. We have a strong group of kids. They worked their butts off.”
Payton Raso, Regina’s No. 1 starter, struggled to tame Mediapolis (21-9).
The senior left-hander allowed six runs on 10 hits while walking four and striking out four. He was 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings heading into Tuesday’s action. Mediapolis scored two runs each in the second, fifth and sixth.
The offense behind Raso couldn’t produce at times, either.
Prior to the seventh inning, Regina had two runners on with less than two outs twice — once in the third and again in the fifth — but could not score.
“We didn’t get some key hits in situations where we might have been able to scratch off some runs earlier,” Pacha said.
There were three highlights in the near-magic seventh for Pacha’s club. Luke Gallagher had an RBI infield single, Jacob Gahan connected for a two-RBI double and Trent Hoogerwerf ripped a line drive through the right side of the infield for a two-RBI single.
One win away from state, the comeback attempt perhaps changed the response of the outcome by players and coaches — three outs away from being shutout by six runs, wiped away.
Ultimately, the Regals still needed two more runs for victory.
“It’s a testament to our team and our character and how we’ve been all year,” Pacha said. “Sure, it makes it a little more interesting at the end, but that’s how our team is. We’re in any game and we have a lot of fight.”
Pacha was complimentary of his four seniors: Raso, Jacob Gahan, Gallagher, and Zach Galindo. The foursome eased the transition for Pacha, a longtime assistant at Regina who took over the head post before the 2015 campaign.
The Regals advanced to the state tournament in 2014. A back-to-back appearance was in their grasp despite a six-run deficit with three outs to go.
So, so close.
“These guys fought hard and they deserved a better performance than what I gave them today,” Raso said. “They came out and battled. They showed we wanted it. We came up short. They deserve a heck of a lot better than this feeling right now.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.