DUBUQUE—The Clinton River Queens saw a lead disappear and never found their offense again in a 8-3 loss to Dubuque Wahlert on Thursday night in the first round of Class 4A regionals.
"We had our chances," Clinton head coach Nate Herrig said. "And that's all you can ask. We played a competitive softball game from start to finish. Even going into the top of the seventh I never thought at any point we were out of it."
The offensive spark for the River Queens came in the top of the fourth. Catcher Casy Mandrell led the inning off with double, and following that up was a double from Madison Meggenberg. That hit straight to right center brought in the first run of the night, breaking the deadlock tie.
Lauren Brennan then came to the plate and hit one to the deepest part of the field and watched soar over the fence for a two-run slam. That gave the River Queens a 3-0 lead.
Other then that, Clinton’s bats were quiet. The River Queens saw a large number of strikeouts with very little patience at the plate. That's not something that Herrig was necessarily mad about. They were up against Wahlert's Anna Chapman, who has 204 Ks this season. That number ranks sixth in all of Class 4A.
"We knew coming in that she had the strikeouts, she had a decent rise ball," Herrig said. "We had talked about jumping on something early because if not, you're going to fall behind and see the rise ball. We're not the only team who struck out a lot of times against this girl this year."
The strikeouts were alright because the River Queens were keeping up. The Clinton starting pitcher, Lauren Brennan, averages a strikeout every two innings. Through her four and a third innings of work, though, she struck out six.
Brennan seemed to be cruising until the fifth inning.
"She was moving the ball all over the place," Herrig said. "I watched her warm up and she said she felt good, and that carried over. Everything was working for her."
In the top of the sixth, the top of the order once again came through for Clinton. Casy Mandrell and Madison Meggenberg notched consecutive singles with just one out, and eventually advanced to both be in scoring position.
Brennan even walked to load the bases but all three runners were left on base.
"We had our chances," Herrig repeated. "Annelise [Dickinson] put one heck of a bat together with one out and we had the chance ... that's all you can ask for.
"It's being comptitive and having that mindset that I can win this at-bat and see what I can put together."
A bases loaded double that plated three additional runs for the Golden Eagles in the bottom of the seventh was the nail on the coffin for the River Queens, who have only mustered five or more runs in a third of their games this year and rarely in a single inning.
Clinton finishes the year 8-27 behind Herrig, who is in his second year at the helm of the program. That’s a six-win improvement over the year before with essentially the same roster.
"We started to make some progress," Herrig said. "Kudos to the seniors, they left the program a better place than when they came in and they've done some nice things. That's the biggest thing ... you have to give the credit to the kids. We tell them all the time it's your bus and you drive it, we just put some gas in it every now and then."
They do say goodbye to five seniors: Macy Mulholland, Erin Heath, Molly Chapman, Molly Ferguson and Annelise Dickinson.
"Competitive softball at the end of the year," Herrig said. "That's where we as a program want to be right now."
The Wahlert Catholic Golden Eagles on the other hand will move on. They travel to Central DeWitt next to take on the WaMaC champion Sabers.