The Louisa-Muscatine High School softball team is in familiar territory.
For West Burlington-Notre Dame and Wapello, it has been a little while.
All three teams will play in regional finals at 7 p.m. Monday, with trips to the state tournament July 22-26 at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge on the line.
Second-ranked Louisa-Muscatine (32-4), last year's Class 2A state champion, hosts 10th-ranked Williamsburg (31-11) in a Class 3A final.
West Burlington-Notre Dame (25-11) travels to play two-time defending state champion and top-ranked Davenport Assumption (37-2) at St. Vincent's in Davenport in another Class 3A final. The Lady Falcons are playing in their first regional final since 2014, the last time they played in the state tournament.
Wapello (16-12) plays at Pekin (19-13) in a Class 2A regional final. The Arrows have not been to state in 20 years.
All three area teams stand one win away from reaching the ultimate destination and a chance to play for a state championship.
"it's been a long time coming," WB-ND head coach David Oleson said. "I can't remember having a team that has gelled together like this one has this season. It's been fun to watch. They support each other in every way. If one person gets down, other people are there to pick them up again. It doesn't matter if they are a senior or an eighth-grader. They have really gelled as a unit. I couldn't be more proud of these girls."
"I feel pretty good about the way we are playing," first-year Wapello coach Ashley Hahnbaum said. "It actually all started at Pekin where we really started to pick things up. We split a doubleheader over there. They put it to us in the first game, but we came back at them in the second game. We have been a different offensive team since then."
"At least it's here on our home field. We're going to have practice this weekend and work on hitting. We'll take one game at a time," Louisa-Muscatine coach Bryan Butler said. "We try not to even talk about that. We have to get there first. That's the whole thing. We have to win this game on Monday, so we're going to work this weekend on that. Moving up to 3A is a thing where you play a bunch of teams you haven't played before. That's why we played a bunch of 5A and 4A teams. We have to find a way to get runners on and move them around."
WB-ND advanced with a 4-0 win over ninth-ranked Camanche in a regional final Friday night at Camanche. Eighth-grade pitcher Lauren Summers struck out nine batters in the final 3 2/3 innings, while senior catcher Lexy Davis came up with a key hit. The Lady Falcons scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back.
"They played really well. They were upbeat from the start," Oleson said. "When we give Lauren Summers a lead, she is awfully tough to beat. Lauren pitched lights out. Her riseball was on and she was hitting the outside corner with her curveball. She threw a couple really nice changeups, too."
The Lady Falcons will have to bring their best against an Assumption team which has five batters hitting over .400 and two other hitting .377 or better. Senior pitcher Alli Timmons is 27-0 with a 1.21 ERA and has fanned 187 batters in 150 innings.
Assumption beat WB-ND, 11-3, in the Muscatine Classic last month, but that was a weekend tournament game.
"Assumption is an excellent, excellent ball club. We are going to have to bring our 'A-plus' game. If we do that, I believe we can compete with anybody," Oleson said. "We have the utmost respect for Assumption and what they have done. We are going to go play our best and let the chips fall where they may."
After splitting with Pekin on June 11, the Arrows have gone 8-4. They advanced with a 9-0 win over West Branch, while Pekin edged Van Buren, 4-3.
Wapello has senior pitcher Samantha Smith back. She missed half the season with a strained quadriceps. She is 4-4 with a 0.85 ERA. The Arrows' offense has soared in the second half. The Arrows are averaging 7.4 runs per game over the last 12 games.
Pekin, meanwhile, has two top-notch pitchers in Faith Goudy (4-2, 2.22 ERA) and Cari Duwa (6-8, 2.37) and has three players batting over .400, led by Zoey Wright ((.505).
"They have a good pitching staff and a couple really good hitters. They hit three home runs off of us in the doubleheader," Hahnbaum said. "We have been preaching the mental part of the game. I tell the girls it's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. We got a big confidence boost late in the season when we went to Louisa-Muscatine and only lost by one run. If we keep our heads and play our game, we have a chance."
Louisa-Muscatine squeaked past Centerville, 1-0, on a night when the Falcons hit the ball hard, but right at fielders Junior pitcher Hailey Sanders has kept them in games. She has a combined 31 strikeouts in the two postseason games and 50 in her last three appearances.
The Falcons will need another strong effort from Sanders against a Williamsburg team which is led by Jill Holub (.393 average, 11 home runs) and Peyton Driscoll (17-5, 2.05 ERA, 142 strikeouts).
"It's a lot of pressure. Everyone wants us to do it again. We're just taking it one pitch at a time, one game at a time. We're playing as a team. It's all of us together. It's not just one person and we all realize that. We're really trying hard," McKenna Hohenadel said.
"It's amazing. This one, obviously, was closer than we wanted it to be. Now we got the win and I know we can pull off this next win. We will be practicing all weekend. We're getting ready for this big game," Sanders said.