BURLINGTON, Iowa — After Bettendorf's softball team broke its postgame huddle Saturday night following a season-ending 4-1 defeat to Burlington, coach Jay Hatch wrapped his arms around his two seniors.
Goodbyes are always hard. This one was particularly difficult given it was his daughter, Erin, and close friend Grace Erpelding.
"It is a unique situation," coach Hatch said. "I've seen every game those two kids have ever played going back to like 10U. Every senior is special, but this is a special senior class for me."
Bettendorf (25-14) never could generate the timely hit against Iowa State recruit Makaylin Powers as Burlington (31-9) advanced to Tuesday night's Class 5A regional final against top-ranked Pleasant Valley.
The Bulldogs stranded five baserunners, all at second or third base. They left somebody at third base in the first, sixth and seventh innings.
"We had a lot of opportunities we didn't take advantage of," Erpelding said. "It is tough to see that and have it so close."
Coach Hatch had no complaints about how his team competed. It struck out only once, hit the ball hard throughout the game and didn't commit an error.
"We just never could get that big inning," Hatch remarked. "That is a credit to their pitcher and their defense. They made a couple plays there when things could have been good for us."
Bettendorf scored in the first inning, but Burlington immediately countered with two in the bottom half against Madison Temple.
Powers roped two doubles in the game, the first coming to lead off three straight hits for Burlington in the opening inning and another to drive in a run in the fourth.
The Grayhounds were dialed in, a stark contrast from the final two weeks of the regular season where they lost six of their last 11 games.
"We were a lot more focused and knew what we were going to do from one play to the next," Burlington coach Larry Heath said. "I think that was especially true on defense.
"To answer them right away in that first inning and then add on, I think it loosened our team up and Makaylin could relax."
Burlington gets another crack at PV, the co-Mississippi Athletic Conference champion and defending state champion. The Grayhounds lost 3-2 and 13-0 to the Spartans in the conference finale, but Powers didn't pitch either game.
"If we play like we did tonight, we definitely can be in the game," Heath said. "If we let them get some stuff and we fall behind, that's a different situation."
Sophomore Breanna Newton had two of the Bulldogs' six hits.
Other than Erin Hatch and Erpelding, Bettendorf returns the rest of its roster for next summer. All 14 of the Bulldogs' defeats were to ranked teams.
The abrupt finality resulted in plenty of emotions afterward for Hatch and Erpelding. The two have been teammates in volleyball, basketball and softball.
"When volleyball or basketball ended, we knew we still had another sport," Erin Hatch said. "Now, there is nothing left to go."
For Hatch, she had the opportunity to share the experience with her father the past three seasons.
"Playing for your dad means a little something extra," she said. "You always try to make your coach proud, but when it is your dad, the high-five or hug at the end of the game means a little more.
"I'm sad to see that go."