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Pleasant Valley sophomore pitcher Ellie Spelhaug was sidelined from the pitching circle for three weeks with a bicep injury, but she has returned and help the Spartans take a 31-8 record into the postseason.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has laid out the path to Fort Dodge for softball teams.

So now that will know the assignments for all five classes, which Quad-City area schools have the best shot at getting to the Rogers Sports Complex, July 18-22? 

Class 5A

The MAC has an 80 percent shot at getting one team through. In Region 4, Clinton (1-22) will travel to Dubuque Senior (9-16) for the opening round on July 7. The winner heads to 10th-ranked Bettendorf (21-7) for a regional semifinal July 9. 

The bottom half features a rematch of last year's semifinal between fifth-ranked PV (21-5) and Muscatine (15-9). The game will be at PV on July 9.

Just like girls basketball this past season, the highest-ranked team remaining (based on the final regular-season rankings) will host the regional final. 

Bettendorf is the top seed after its doubleheader sweep of PV on Monday and likely will move above them in the rankings later this week. It'll be the final set of rankings around July 4 that will determine which team would host a possible matchup.

If PV can get another crack at Bettendorf, the status of pitcher Ellie Spelhaug will be an important storyline. The sophomore has been battling a bicep injury and hasn't pitched in three weeks. Coach Lori Duncan said Spelhaug was just given the green light by doctors to slowly work her way back.

I wouldn't count on Spelhaug pitching any complete games the rest of the summer, but a combination of her (if healthy) and Alexia Lara in a seven-inning game could pose problems for the opposition.

Bettendorf, meanwhile, has been rolling. After a difficult schedule led to a 2-6 start, coach Jay Hatch's team has won 19 of its last 20 games and leads the conference race. The Bulldogs are vying for their second consecutive trip to state and third since 2011. 

In Region 5, Davenport West (17-10) will host Dubuque Hempstead (18-7) in a regional semifinal. The teams are expected to play Friday in the Cedar Rapids Jefferson tournament. That might change each team's thinking in who they pitch. West beat Hempstead in last year's opening regional round, 8-2.

If West can survive that, third-ranked Iowa City West (19-3) likely looms in the regional final. The Falcons lost to the Women of Troy 3-1 in early June at the Iowa City tournament. 

After a topsy-turvy run in MAC play, West has matched its longest win streak of the season at six games. 

In Region 3, Davenport Central (1-16) heads to Iowa City High for the opener. The winner faces second-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the semifinal round.

Class 4A

The state divided the four Q-C metro and area 4A programs into two different regions. 

In Region 4, Central DeWitt makes the short drive to Eldridge to play North Scott on July 7. The winner makes the long trek to seventh-ranked Keokuk for a regional semifinal.

On the bottom half, Davenport North travels to Fort Madison for the opener. The victor meets eighth-ranked Fairfield in the regional semifinal.

North Scott (9-18) beat Central DeWitt (10-12) 12-5 on June 10. The Lancers haven't seen Keokuk this year. The Chiefs (15-9) have lost to three MAC schools already in Burlington, Davenport West and Bettendorf.

North dropped two games to Fort Madison on Tuesday at home, 13-3 and 5-2. 

In Region 5, Maquoketa opens at home against Washington (6-17). Mount Pleasant, ranked 11th this week, lurks in the semifinal round. 

Class 3A

It appears Assumption will use its new facility, located at the St. Vincent Center, for the postseason. The Knights have played their regular-season games at the school, but that venue doesn't have lights.

Lights are required to host, something that prevented Assumption from being at home in the regional final last year.

In Region 4, No. 2 Assumption (24-4) will open at home on Wednesday, July 6 against Mediapolis (6-8). The region also features Centerville (13-9), Albia (11-10) and Mid-Prairie (10-14) on the bottom half of the draw. Assumption is the only ranked team in the region and would play all three games at home. It'll take a significant upset for the Knights not to get through.

Meanwhile, Region 3 is very balanced. No. 7 Mount Vernon and No. 8 Northeast are labeled the favorites, but Monticello and West Liberty also are very capable of making deep runs.

Monticello split two one-run games with Northeast earlier this season. West Liberty just swept 2A top-ranked Iowa City Regina on Tuesday.

Northeast opens at home against Anamosa. A win sends them to a likely semifinal tilt at home against Monticello.

If Mount Vernon and Northeast make it to the final, it'll be a rematch of last year's final won by the Mustangs, 6-5. Instead of being played on a neutral field, the game would be played at the site of the highest ranked team in the final rankings.

Class 2A

The majority of Quad-City area teams are in Region 6, led by fifth-ranked Durant and 14th-ranked Louisa-Muscatine. Wilton, Bellevue, Wapello, Tipton and Columbus Community also are in this 10-team region.

Durant has just three losses this season, one of those came to Louisa-Muscatine in extra innings. Those teams would not meet until a possible regional final.

Coach Steve Hopkins' squad has to get past Bellevue in the quarterfinals and then either Wilton, Wapello or Tipton in the semifinal round. Louisa-Muscatine and Highland are the top teams in the bottom half. The Falcons beat the Huskies 4-2 on Tuesday night.

In Region 5, North Cedar draws a tough opening round game at top-ranked Iowa City Regina. The Knights lost to the Regals 9-2 earlier this month.

Class 1A

Calamus-Wheatland is ranked eighth, but it wasn't entirely protected by the IGHSAU. The Warriors could play two games at home before a potential showdown with fifth-ranked New London in the final in Region 5.

The Warriors fell 2-1 to New London in a game at the Durant tournament in early June. New London senior ace Morgan Christner pitched just two innings of relief in that game. Christner is 11-2 with a 1.34 ERA and 129 strikeouts. 

Cal-Wheat (16-8) is 11-3 in its last 14 games after a five-game skid. The Warriors are batting .368 and smacked 19 homers this summer. 

Katie Banowetz pitched in the earlier meeting against New London, but Hannah Hamann has given Cal-Wheat several good outings of late. 

First, Cal-Wheat has to get past Winfield-Mount Union or Iowa Mennonite in the quarterfinals and then a semifinal opponent. The Warriors, though, might not face a team with a winning record until the regional final.

Bellevue Marquette, Easton Valley and Midland were lumped into the bottom half of Region 4. No. 13 Lisbon is considered the favorite on that end of the draw while Tri-Rivers Conference leader and third-ranked Alburnett is the likely school to emerge from the top half of the region.


Regional schedule

Class 1A/2A

July 5: First round

July 6: Quarterfinals

July 8: Semifinals

July 11: Finals

Class 3A

July 6: Quarterfinals

July 8: Semifinals

July 11: Finals

Class 4A/5A

July 7: Quarterfinals

July 9: Semifinals

July 12: Finals


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.