Squeeze leads to hugs as Comets advance to regional final

Press photo by John Burbridge Lydia Staudt, left, gets hugged by Ciana Sonberg after scoring the winning run for the Comets in Saturday’s 2-1 regional semifinal victory over Mason City. Staudt was brought home by a suicide-squeeze bunt from Madeline Peters (No. 3).
Press photo by John Burbridge
Lydia Staudt, left, gets hugged by Ciana Sonberg after scoring the winning run for the Comets in Saturday’s 2-1 regional semifinal victory over Mason City. Staudt was brought home by a suicide-squeeze bunt from Madeline Peters (No. 3).
By John Burbridge sports@charlescitypress.com

CHARLES CITY — Madeline Peters almost made the WebGem Play of the Game.

Almost.

With two outs in the top of the seventh and Mason City senior Haley Norcross on third base representing the go-ahead run in a scoreless too-close-for-comfort Class 4A-Region 8 softball semifinal Saturday against the favored Charles City Comets, Mohawk junior Erika Mariner drove a Sami Heyer offering up the middle seemingly heading for the outfield.

Peters, the Comet senior shortstop, had to act fast, which she did diving all-out to snare the hot grounder in the webbing of her glove.

“I just didn’t want the ball to get through,” Peters said.

But with Mariner charging down the first-base line and Norcross on the verge of crossing the plate, Peters had to quickly come up throwing.

“Maybe I just rushed it a little,” Peters said of her throw that went high and wide, allowing Mariner to reach base safely and advance to second, and Norcross’s unearned run to score.

But before it was all over, Peters would be tested again. And this time she assured that her high school softball career as well as her team’s season would live at least another day.

“I’ve done it before, so I knew I could get it down,” Peters said of her suicide-squeeze bunt she laid down in the latter half of the seventh, scoring Lydia Staudt from third for the winning run in a 2-1 thriller.

Charles City (32-6), ranked No. 4 in Class 4A in the final Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union listing, will host Center Point-Urbana — which defeated Waverly-Shell Rock 6-4 in its semifinal Saturday — 7 p.m. Tuesday in the bracket final with a Softball State Championships berth on the line. The Comets will be vying for their third-straight state tournament appearance. Last year, they placed fourth in the Class 4A bracket; in 2016 they won the consolation bracket and placed fifth.

Heyer picked up her 22nd win of the season after striking out 10 and yielding four hits and two walks. The Mohawks posed numerous threats throughout the game, but Heyer was able to muster several clutch “K’s” to end innings with runners in scoring position.

Heyer’s counterpart McKenna Mentink was able to match zeroes through six innings while being backed by flawless defense. The Comets did hit the ball hard against her, but seemed snakebitten as the drives were repeatedly hit right at Mohawks or chased down by them.

In the bottom of the sixth with Ashlyn Hoeft aboard, Ciana Sonberg drove a ball deep to right field for looked like was going to be a much-needed 2-run homer. But Mariner was able to drift back and catch it at the fence while keeping it in the ballpark.

Things finally changed for the better for the Comets in their half of the seventh with elimination looming.

“Our team has been in these type of situations before, so we were confident we could pull it off,” said Comet senior Payton Reams, who led off the seventh with a solid single, advanced to second base on a steal, then was driven home by a double to right-center field by junior Cora Crooks.

“But still, there were some nerves involved,” Reams said.

Staudt replaced Crooks on the base paths, advanced to third on Kelby Katcher’s infield out, then slid home ahead of the desperate flip to the plate to cap perhaps the most dramatic victory of the year thus far for the Comets.

Crooks had two hits, and so did Comet senior Tayler Schmidt, who also stole two bases.

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