Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
FORT DODGE — When Lyndi Vantiger transferred from Mediapolis to Mt. Pleasant after the 2017 softball season, she had dreams of going to state. Four years later, those dreams are finally coming true, but from the coaches box rather than in the field.
The former Panther catcher was on the field at Rogers Sports Complex last week when the state tournament kicked off, but instead of wearing Mt. Pleasant’s colors, she was representing Iowa City Regina.
“If you would have told me the first time I would have made state softball was as a coach, I wouldn’t have believed you.” Vantiger said.
The Class of 2019 graduate was a huge boost to a Mt. Pleasant squad that was coming off its second state tournament appearance in three years. The team was turning a new leaf with a talented senior class in 2017, but the 2018 and 2019 squads Vantiger played on had plenty of talent at their disposal.
In her first year playing for the Panthers, Vantiger batted .353 with a double, two triples, a home run and 15 RBIs. Though her average dipped below .300 the next year, she still finished with double-digit RBIs, racking up 15, and over the two seasons she swiped 24 bases.
Unfortunately for Vantiger, and the rest of those Panther softball players, neither of those groups made it to the state tournament. Mt. Pleasant nearly won the conference in 2019, but Mt. Pleasant could never get past the regional semifinals.
“I would have loved to have been able to be one of those lucky athletes that made it to Fort Dodge,” Vantiger said. “We were a great team, but we did have our low moments.”
Softball has always been a part of Vantiger’s life. In 20 years of life, she says she has played 32 seasons of softball. She was also a member of the volleyball team and a state-qualifying track athlete.
So, as one could imagine, there was a void when she went a year of college without it.
“All of the sudden waking up and not having that anymore is heartbreaking,” Vantiger said. “You feel like you’re missing something in your life.”
Vantiger says she has found other ways to try and fill that gap. She says she finds herself working out constantly, which helps give her a bit of the excitement left by being out of competitive sports.
“I love the adrenaline rush of working out and lifting and what not,” Vantiger said. “That’s about the only thing athletic that I do.”
Vantiger says she knew Regals head coach Angelina Kessler from past travel softball teams. Kessler reached out to her in late winter.
“I really got lucky,” Vantiger said. “I didn’t even apply, just good history and good people skills and my background.”
Vantiger just graduated from Kirkwood and will be moving on to the University of Iowa to continue studying sports and recreation. She had a full-time job lined up already, but she knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it work.
“I’ve always wanted to be a coach somewhere in the future,” Vantiger said. “The fact that I got to coach this early in my life was a total blessing.”
Vantiger says she sees an advantage in being able to relate to the players. After all, some are just a couple years younger than herself.
“I understand what it’s like to be an athlete,” Vantiger said. “I know what it’s like for the sport to take up your summer, and I know sometimes you don’t want to be there. Sometimes you just want to be on a beach somewhere.”
But, the fiery competitor in Vantiger still comes out as she stands in the dugout and in the first base coaches box.
“It’s hard for me to keep my composure,” Vantiger said. “I am young, but my head coach and our pitching coach keep me balanced.
The Regina softball team entered the postseason as the 14th-ranked team in Class 2A. The Regals had to battle in a 5-3 win over Pekin in their first tournament game. They staged a late comeback to stun top-seeded Louisa-Muscatine in the regional semifinals, and in the regional final, came back from down three runs in the seventh against Cardinal to force extra innings, where they would win on a walk-off wild pitch.
“If any team can come back it’s Regina,” Vantiger said. “These girls have done it every single game.”
Regina lost their state quarterfinal 5-2 to eventual champion North Linn, but defeated Underwood in the consolation bracket to end the day at 1-1.
“The experience is amazing,” Vantiger said. “It’s a really nice solitude feel. It’s not super overwhelming. It’s almost relaxing.”
And she had plenty of time to soak in the scenes of Fort Dodge, a final destination she was always aiming for.
“You walk in and you are like, ‘We’re here,’” Vantiger said.
And that coaching itch still is there. Vantiger says she definitely sees herself in the coaches box a lot more often, and she’d love for it to be at Regina. Either way, Vantiger’s presence on the local softball scene doesn’t seem to be something that will be over anytime soon.