Comets defeat Mohawks 10-6 for regional title, advance to state for 5th-straight year
By John Burbridge
CHARLES CITY — In some ways this “New Normal” is much like the “Old Normal”.
At least in regards to the Charles City Comets making their annual trip to Fort Dodge for the State Softball Championships.
After reclaiming the lead with a 6-run rally in the second inning, the Comets kept the Mason City Mohawks at bay the rest of the game while winning the Class 4A-Region 5 championship Tuesday in a 10-6 final.
This is the fifth-straight summer that the Comets advanced to the state tournament. As the No. 5 seed in the Class 4A bracket, Charles City will face No. 4-seed North Scott at 3:30 p.m. Monday on the Iowa Central Field at Rogers Sports Complex.
The two teams squared off last season in the Class 4A semifinals with the Lancers rallying for 2 runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings on the way to winning 3-2 in nine innings.
The Comets bounced back to win the third-place consolation game against West Delaware.
The winner of the Comets-Lancers first-round game — the teams were respectively ranked No. 7 and No. 5 in the final Class 4A softball poll posted by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union — will face the winner of the Carlisle-LeMars first-round game at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals.
Defending champion Carlisle is the bracket’s No. 1 seed.
Getting back to the tournament was never a doubt for Comet veteran head coach Brian Bohlen, who was also optimistic during a tenuous offseason with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to wipe out summer high school sports in Iowa like it did for all spring sports across the nation.
“We just approached it like we were going to have a season and made sure we were prepared for it,” Bohlen said. “It took a lot of work and sacrifice to get here. We knew we had to be cautious and responsible.”
The Comets rallied for 3 runs in the first inning to go up 3-0 with the big blow being Allie Cross’s 2-run double.
The Mohawks responded with 4 runs in the top of the second before the Comets put up 6 in the latter half.
Though Charles City maintained a “comfortable” lead throughout the game, Mason City has an explosive offense that you don’t want to get into a slugfest with — the Mohawks defeated Decorah 17-14 in the regional semifinals, the 10th time this season they put up double-figure scoring including a 24-0 blowout of Des Moines North.
The Mohawks also have a penchant for taking advantage of any extra outs given to them like they did Tuesday. Only 1 of the 6 runs scored off Comet winning pitcher Dani Reetz was earned.
But the Comets managed to deprive the Mohawks of one “near-miss” opportunity.
Mason City eighth-grader Adyson Evans lifted a short flyball to center field off starting pitcher counterpart Reetz in the top of the fifth. Comet sophomore Lydia Staudt, racing in from deep centerfield, was able to get a glove on it but couldn’t quite squeeze it in for the catch. Yet an alert Liz Fiser, who had drifted back from second base, was there to seize the ball before it hit the ground.
“Are you kidding me?” one of the coaches from Mason City’s dugout remarked at the indication that this might not be the Mohawks’ night.
Fiser and Staudt each had two hits, Ashlyn Hoeft and Ava Ellis each drove in 2 runs with the latter’s RBIs coming by way of a double in the 6-run second, and Reetz picked up her 11th win.
The game was delayed more than an hour due to the heavy rainfall that preceded it. Bohlen, who was part of the platoon of grounds crew, coaches and volunteers helping get the field ready, did some more maintenance during the game when he came out to the pitcher’s circle in the fourth inning.
Reetz had thrown six-straight balls with her lead foot landing awkwardly in an indentation that formed.
“It was mainly to talk to the team … calm things down,” Bohlen said, “and to fill the hole.”
With Charles City (13-3), North Scott (16-9), Carlisle (18-3) and LeMars (14-5), other teams in the Class 4A bracket include No. 2-seed West Delaware (21-4), No. 3-seed Fairfield (24-1), No. 6-seed Dallas Center-Grimes (19-9) and No. 7-seed Winterset (14-7).
To further accentuate the “normalcy” this summer, this will be Charles City’s 29th state softball appearance. Only Clear Creek-Amana (34) has more.