SOLON — Jake Brinkman wanted to get his head coach to the state baseball tournament.
All season long, the senior pitcher and center fielder for Iowa City Regina has been preaching that in his 16th and final season, Andy Gahan was going to go to state.
That premonition came true last night when the Regals mercy-ruled Louisa-Muscatine, 11-1, in six innings in a Class 2A substate final.
The Falcons had the lead in what appeared an evenly matched game going into the top of the fifth. And then Regina’s bats woke up.
With Zach Galindo on second base, Justin Hunter took a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to put the Regals up 2-1. Ten of Regina’s next 12 batters then reached base safely, with Regina amassing 11 hits in a 10-run inning.
“It’s a dream come true,” Gahan said after the game. “We came into the season with high expectations ... and now its time to do the next job. A new season starts Monday. We were just waiting for that big inning and we got it.”
Gahan will hang up his coaching hat after this season to become a principal at an elementary school in the area. This is the first time since 1999 the Regina baseball program has advanced to state and, even though his players say they have dedicated their play for their coach’s final go-round, Gahan maintained he has little to do with their successes.
“I appreciate that very much, but it’s not about me.” Gahan said. “It’s about the kids and the hard work they put in. It’s not because it’s my last year, the kids deserve the credit. They’ve reaped the benefits of baseball.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit reaped by the Regina players is the opportunity to continue playing at baseball — on one of the biggest stages in the state. And even though Regina boasts a modest 26-16 record, Brinkman said it has been all about getting hot at the right time.
“We put in the hours,” Brinkman said. “It’s so awesome because we have been working so hard. It’s the best feeling in the world to finally get there. We came prepared, and we felt no pressure. We wanted to be here.
“I love Coach Gahan, and to finally do it ... he puts in the hours, for him to do this for 20 years and finally get him there is the best feeling.”