GRUNDY CENTER - Erica Babinat doesn't know why it's such a common occurrence.
Though if she and the Royals can continue to rally like they did Monday, the early nerves will become a moot point.
Unloading a solo shot to left field in the fourth, Babinat sparked 12 unanswered runs for the Colo-NESCO softball team in an 18-8 six-inning victory over Grundy Center in Class 1A Region 4 first round play at George F. Wilhelm Sports Complex.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Colo-NESCO’s Kylie Sarver slides in safely at home as the ball gets by Grundy Center pitcher Riley Ackerman in the second inning of Monday’s Class 1A Region 4 first round game at Grundy Center. Sarver doubled on the play and advanced home on an error as the Royals won 18-8 in six innings.
"Before every game we're all kind of really tense," Babinat said. "With it being the district game it was even more tense, but I'm just glad we were able to relax. Our heads came in place at the right time."
Babinat's round-tripper seemed to put the Royals at ease as Shayla Dean followed with an RBI bloop single to plate Madison Farren and knot the game at 8. Peyton Hall reached on an error to bring in Samantha Riese and Dean as Babinat and the Royals didn't look back.
Babinat retired six of the next seven batters she faced while Colo-NESCO padded its lead with two runs in fifth, before ending it early on Dean's walkoff RBI-double. The Royals scored at least two runs in each at-bat, capped by a six-run output in the sixth.
"(Erica) relaxed a little bit more when we got a few runs ahead," Royals coach Stan Oppedal said of his senior pitcher. "She's been off about four days now without throwing. ... She just needs to keep in the rhythm."
Colo-NESCO (8-16) advances to face Dunkerton (16-13) in a quarterfinal contest Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Grundy Center. The Raiders defeated Meskwaki Settlement 14-0 in three innings in a first round game at Dunkerton Monday.
The Royals defeated the Raiders 7-4 in Dunkerton on June 26 and have won five of their last seven games since a 10-game mid-season slide.
A four-run surge by the Spartans (5-18) put Colo-NESCO in an 8-6 hole - its third deficit of the game. Kayla Mathews scored on a wild pitch and Jessica Ackerson added an RBI single before Jessika VanDeest's two-run single gave Grundy Center its final lead of the night.
Mathews replaced starter Riley Ackerman, who Spartan coach Jeff Mathews said was limited by "a shoulder issue", in the bottom of the fourth before Babinat sent the ball soaring over the left field fence to spark the Royals' rout.
"We really struggled to hit our spots tonight and that's key for us," the Spartan coach said.
"We have to be able to spot the ball, especially because (Colo-NESCO) can really hit the ball. When we missed, they took advantage of it."
Grundy Center led 2-0 in the first and 4-2 in the second, though each time the Royals had an answer. Kylie Sarver's RBI double extended into a two-run play as an error allowed her to get around the bases and reach home to tie it at 4-4 in the bottom of the second. Babinat won from the circle giving up eight runs on nine hits, six free bases and three strikeouts in six innings.
Sarver, Dean and Riese each drove in three, while Babinat plated a pair for the Royals.
Mathews took the loss allowing 12 runs - with seven earned - on nine hits, while fanning three and walking two in 2 2/3 innings. Ackerman surrendered six runs (three earned) on four hits and a pair of walks. She struck out two batters in three frames.
"I thought if we changed the speed a little bit that might help," Mathews said of the fourth inning pitching change.
"It just didn't work out."
Ackerman hit 2-of-3 at the dish and scored three times, while VanDeest was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and 4 RBIs. Jill Itzen and Jessica Ackerson each had a pair of hits.
The regional semifinal is Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Gilbertville. Class 1A No. 5 Don Bosco (29-8) will host East Buchanan (16-17) Wednesday in the other quarterfinal. The Dons have won 11 straight games, while the Buccaneers have claimed victories in their last seven. The Spartans graduate just two seniors (Ackerman and Erin Stoner) from their 17-member roster.