DURANT, Iowa — All it took for Bellevue’s softball team to be confident heading into Friday’s Class 2A regional semifinal was to look at their previous meeting against Durant.
Just over one month ago, the Comets fell one run short, and it came during a stretch during which they lost four out of five games.
“We just have to get one more run,” starting pitcher Grace Tath said. “Losing to them gave us confidence.”
In perhaps the biggest game of the season, Bellevue got that one more run.
Two runs in the fourth inning and a pitching performance to remember by Tath ignited the Comets to a stunning 2-1 triumph over top-ranked Durant at Durant High School that pushes them to the regional championship game.
Coupled with Wilton’s 9-5 upset over 14th-ranked Jesup, the third and fourth seeds in Region 8 will face each other for the right to go to Fort Dodge on Monday night at Wilton.
“We’ve battled against teams that are supposed to be better than us,” Comets head coach Adam Smith said. “We’re able to play loose and play well because of that.”
A pitching rematch in the circle between Tath and Durant’s Kamryn Meyer gave the early feeling runs would be hard to come by.
Bellevue had only one runner reach base the first time through the order, and the Wildcats picked up a pair of hits but couldn’t bring them around.
Ruby Kappeler hit a towering one-out double in the first inning and was left stranded as Tath induced two fly outs to get out of the inning.
“We had (the heart of the order) coming up, and I thought we’d get the run early and she sits,” Wildcats head coach Steve Hopkins said. “We couldn’t get over the hump.”
Even more impressive was after being called for a pair of illegal pitches in the frame, the freshman right-hander didn’t let it rattle her.
“I’ve never (had) that called before,” Tath said. “It was a good learning experience. It felt like the odds were stacked against me at that point, and it shows how stubborn I am.”
Bellevue (16-13) capitalized on their extra base hit.
Eliza Scheckel roped a double to right field on an outside pitch, and after being initially held at third base, Rebecca Schroeder raced home on an errant throw that plated the game's first run.
“I knew I had to be aggressive at the plate,” Scheckel said. “In the middle of the season, I got into a little slump, but lately I set the tee outside, swinging away.”
Tath added the insurance run on an RBI groundout. After that inning, only one batter reached base against Meyer.
The junior struck out 16 Comet batters with a rise ball and a couple off-speed pitches Bellevue couldn’t lay off.
Durant’s (32-3) lone run came in the sixth inning.
Hannah Happ led off with a single, advanced to second on a stolen base and was brought home after an errant throw from right field that cut the deficit in half.
A one-out walk to Paige Werthmann in the bottom of the seventh brought the winning run to the plate in senior Jalyn Bullard. Tath induced a 6-4-3 double play that sent the Comets into euphoria.
“We played a little bit better defense,” Smith said. “You take down the number one team, so sure it was her best pitching performance.”
Bellevue gets another rematch in the regional final against the Beavers, a game they dropped 5-2. Even though they are feeling confident, the job isn’t done yet.
“We cannot relax; we have to stay on our toes,” Scheckel said. “We can’t let down our guard. We have to just keep going.”