ELDRIDGE — Despite a nightmarish evening, North Scott showed its fight until the very end.
Trailing by eight runs heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lancers mounted a furious comeback before falling short, 9-6 to Keokuk in a Class 4A regional final at North Scott High School.
Keokuk faces Cedar Rapids Xavier on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"I think it really showed that we grew as a group this year. I think last year, with the kids that we had and the mentality that we had, it would have been a 9-1 ball game," North Scott head coach Holly Hoelting said. "I think, confidence-wise, I think that was a very good example of how much they grew this season and I'm very proud of that last inning."
There weren't many positives in the previous six innings for the seventh-ranked Lancers, who committed five errors in the game. Two errors cost the Lancers a pair of runs in the first inning, another miscue cost another run in the fifth inning, then another pair of errors led to two more runs in the sixth inning.
Of the nine Keokuk runs scored, five were unearned.
"It's one of those things where you beat yourself," said Hoelting, who wraps up her first season as head coach. "It's disappointing because we work a lot on defense and we work a lot on routine plays and we've talked about that, if we want to win tonight we need to make routine plays and our defense just wasn't there."
Keokuk (18-18) broke the game open in the top of the seventh, recording seven straight hits and scoring four runs to take a 9-1 lead into the bottom of the inning.
However, the Chiefs' defense also fell apart in the final frame, committing three errors of their own, allowing North Scott (25-14) to cut into the lead.
“I think it was really pretty until the last inning,” Keokuk head coach Merle Jones said. “The nerves got to us, I think we did our jobs really well until our last inning and then the nerves got to us.”
Trailing 9-4 with a runner on first and third, the Lancers elected to have catcher Sam Lee bunt and though a run scored, Lee was out at first, costing North Scott a precious out and after another run scored, Keokuk recorded the final out to end the game.
"I was hoping they were going to go home and then we'd have a runner safe and score a run," Hoelting said of the decision to bunt. "Honestly just mix it up a little bit and I was hoping it would give us a little more momentum than it did."
Jakala Hall (10-9) led the Chiefs with two hits and two RBIs while also holding the Lancers to just three hits in the circle. Despite the seventh inning, Hall credited her defense with helping her through the game.
"Sometimes bad things happen, especially when you get a big lead like that, you get complacent," Hall said. "My defense is amazing, especially when they hit the balls hard like that and they make special plays, I love them."
North Scott loses six seniors but returns plenty of key pieces, including pitcher Ryann Cheek (11-5), who struck out 10 and didn't allow an earned run in five innings of work.
But it doesn't lessen the sting of Saturday night.
"I'm pretty heartbroken, this is a sad way to go out," said senior Kendal Newman, who went 1 for 3 with an RBI for the Lancers in her final game. "I'm really proud of us. It showed that we don't give up and we give it our all. I'm proud of the way we fought."