Between the overflow crowd and tradition rich opponent, Solon’s regional semifinal win on Friday felt more like a state tournament semifinal.
Top-ranked Solon moved one win away from a fifth consecutive state tournament appearance with its 12-2 victory over state tournament regular and No. 12 ranked Mid-Prairie.
Don’t expect any sort of a let down from the Spartans on Monday.
Solon (38-3) will face unranked PCM, Monroe (23-10) on Monday at Grinnell in the second game of a regional final doubleheader.
No. 10 Regina will face No. 13 Collins-Maxwell/Baxter in the Class 2A Region 6 championship at 5:30 p.m. with Solon and PCM squaring off in the 3A Region 5 finale at 7:30 p.m.
“I think we know that it’s not over with and just because we won a big game doesn’t mean that we are done,” Solon senior Ali Herdliska said. “We’ll come out strong as always on Monday.”
Last year’s Class 4A runner-up, Solon is playing its best at the right time.
The Spartans have won nine straight games entering Monday’s regional final outscoring opponents by a combined score of 92-4 during the stretch.
Solon scored 12 unanswered runs in its semifinal win over Mid-Prairie and has scored double figures in seven of its last eight games.
All nine of Solon’s regular starters are hitting above .342 and the Spartans are batting .456 as a team and lead Class 2A in runs.
“We always talk about winning each pitch and every inning and then moving on,” Herdliska said. “We weren’t really thinking about the next game. We know we have one more but we are going to play just as well.”
PCM, Monroe has won five in a row including a 5-4 eight-inning victory over defending 3A runner-up Bondurant-Farrar in the regional semifinals.
The Mustangs have won 11 of 13 games after a 12-8 start and have scored five runs or more 10 times during that stretch.
Senior Racheal Freland has started both regional games for PCM though sophomore Kayla Jennings earned the win in relief against Bondurant-Farrar.
Freland is 16-9 on the season with a 2.90 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 157 innings.
“They have a good left-handed pitcher and they’ve got some speed,” Solon coach Jim White said. “They are a good team.”
PCM will face Solon left-hander Emily Ira, who has allowed just two runs and 12 hits while striking out 62 in her last 31 innings.
On the season Ira is 24-2 with a 0.52 ERA and averages 2.01 strikeouts per inning.
“We try to take it one game at a time,” Ira said. “We had two days to get ready for Mid-Prairie and now we’ll have two days to get ready for PCM.”
Regina also enters Monday’s regional final red hot.
The Regals have won 11 of their last 14 games after outlasting Wapello 4-3 in 10 innings in the regional semifinals.
Sophomore pitcher Sarah Lehman went the distance in the semifinal win and has allowed four hits and two runs in 15 postseason innings.
Class 3A Region 5 Final
- No. 1 Solon (38-3) vs. PCM, Monroe (23-10).
- When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Grinnell
- Stat Leaders: Solon — Sydney Lawson .561 BA, 75 Runs; Taylor Nearad .528 BA, 66 RBI; Emily Ira 24-2, .52 ERA, 324 K. PCM — Katie VandeWall .349 BA, 3 HR; Jayci Vos .369 BA, 24 RBI; Rachael Freland 16-9, 2.90 ERA.
- About the Spartans: Seeking its fifth straight state tournament appearance, Solon has been dominant in regional play so far outscoring its first two opponents 25-2 and holding a 29-5 advantage in hits. Solon leads the state in runs with 372, an average of 9.1 runs per game and has scored in double figures in 22 of its 41 games.
- About the Mustangs: PCM has won five in a row and 11 of its last 13 games and has outscored opponents 46-6 during its five-game winning streak.
- What to watch: The top of the Solon order has proved dangerous all season and has only increased its production in the postseason. The top four hitters in the Solon order — Syndey Lawson, Emily Ira, Taylor Nearad and Ali Herdliska — are hitting a combined .600 (18-for-30) in two regional wins and have combined for 13 runs and 14 RBI.
Class 2A Region 6 Final
- No. 10 Regina (22-14) vs. No. 13 Collins-Maxwell/Baxter (20-14)
- When: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
- Where: Grinnell
- Stat Leaders: Regina — Kennedy Brown .462 BA, 12 HR; Madison Scott .381 BA, 18 RBI; Sarah Lehman 13-8, 1.17 ERA, 197 K. CMB — Payge Jurgens .343 BA, 9 HR; Mikayla Eslinger .329 BA, 4 HR; Abbey Kahler 18-11, 1.65 ERA, 181 K.
- About the Regals: The late-season push continued for Regina on Friday as the Regals outlasted ninth-ranked Wapello 4-3 in 10 innings. Regina has won 11 of its last 14 games and has only one loss this season to Class 2A competition. Of the Regal’s 14 losses, 12 have come to Class 5A or ranked opponents.
- About the Raiders: After nearly pulling the upset of eventual 2A runner-up Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont in the regional semifinals last season, the Raiders did just that last week. Collins-Maxwell/Baxter never trailed in a 6-3 upset of the second-ranked Rockets in Friday’s Region 6 semifinal. The Raiders have won 11 of their last 13 games after enduring a 2-8 stretch that dropped Collins-Maxwell/Baxter to 9-12 on the season.
- What to watch: In a meeting of two of the top home run hitting teams in Class 2A, this evenly matched game could come down to the long ball. Regina is second in 2A with 22 home runs this season, while Collins-Maxwell/Baxter is third with 19. Kennedy Brown leads Regina with 12 home runs while Sarah Lehman has five. Junior Payge Jurgens paces Collins-Maxwell/Baxter with nine home runs, three of which have come in a pair of regional wins.