BCLUW is bidding to get back to Fort Dodge after a one-year hiatus. East Marshall's last trip to the state softball tournament was before some of its players were even born.
Both area teams take to the regional finals tonight, fighting for the right to represent their communities at the Iowa Girls' State Softball Tournament next week at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
BCLUW is ranked 10th in Class 2A and meets Denver in tonight's Region 3 title bout in Parkersburg. The Comets are in the regional finals for the fifth time in the last six years and have a handful of players on their roster who were a part of back-to-back state championship squads in 2009 and 2010.
The Comets (27-11) defeated NICL West Division foe AGWSR to advance to tonight's 7 p.m. game against Denver (25-6). The Cyclones stunned No. 6-ranked Jesup, 7-0, in their regional title game.
The two teams met one week into the regular season with BCLUW emerging a 7-6 winner after Sarah McCoy's walk-off, two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning at the BCLUW Memorial Day Classic in Conrad.
The Comets reached Denver ace pitcher Josie Wolter (23-6) for 10 hits and four earned runs. Wolter ranks 14th in 2A with 184 1/3 innings pitched, having handled the Cyclones' duties in the circle in all but 12 innings this season.
Tonight's Regional Softball Finals
BCLUW vs. Denver, 7 p.m.
East Marshall vs. Iowa Falls-Alden, 7 p.m.
Denver is led offensively by seniors Whitney and Chelsea Matlack. Whitney Matlack is hitting a team-best .485 with four home runs and 39 RBIs, while Chelsea Matlack is batting .419 with seven home runs.
The Cyclones have never been to the state tournament.
McCoy leads the Comets with 47 hits, two triples, three home runs and a .412 batting average. Kendall Scurr, Danielle Montgomery and Abby Miller also are hitting over .300 heading into tonight's contest.
Sophomore Nicolette Simpson (17-8) pitched two innings of relief to earn the win against Denver the first time around. Eighth-grader Olivia Callaway (10-3) went the first five frames and allowed five runs (three earned) with five walks and six strikeouts. The duo has pitched all but one inning for the Comets this season.
East Marshall takes a No. 7 ranking and a 29-5 record into tonight's Class 3A Region 3 final against Iowa Falls-Alden (26-7) in Roland.
The Mustangs last went to state in back-to-back seasons in 1994-95, while the only state tournament under the Cadets' cap belongs to Alden from 1974.
East Marshall is one of the top hitting teams in the state, ranking fifth in Iowa with a .480 slugging percentage. The Mustangs lead 3A in home runs (28) and runs per game (9.3), rank third in doubles (80) and batting average (.397), and are fifth in total runs scored (315). Junior catcher Katie Roseland is tied for the 3A lead with 13 home runs.
Iowa Falls-Alden's claim to fame this season has been speed on the bases. The Cadets rank fourth in 3A with 118 stolen bases out of 127 attempts. Junior pitcher Lindsay Barnhart boasts at 24-3 record and the team is fourth in 3A with a 1.33 earned run average.
Shanaya Schutt leads the Cadets with 45 hits, 11 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 39 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and a .459 batting average.
The Iowa Girls' State Softball Tournament begins July 16 and runs through July 20.