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Wayland wins Division 2 semifinal then mourns death of assistant coach’s father

By: Tom Markowski, June 11, 2015, 3:12 pm




East Lansing – The Wayland Union softball community received crushing news following the team’s 11-0 Division 2 semifinal victory over St. Clair at Michigan State University on Thursday.

Bill Merchant, the father of Wayland assistant coach, Nicki (Merchant) Cardosa, died Saturday in what was apparently an automobile accident in the western part of the state.

Cardosa is one of Merchant’s four daughters and all played softball at Wayland and at the Division I level. Merchant was the boys junior varsity basketball coach at Wayland.

Wayland coach Cheri Ritz is Merchant’s sister-in-law and Cardosa is her niece.

“I knew something was up,” Ritz said. “Something wasn’t right. Nicki’s family wasn’t here. Her phone was blowing up in the fourth inning. I told her to leave it.

“It’s hard to go from such a high to this.”

Immediately after the five-inning game, when she learned of her father’s death, Cardosa broke down behind the Wayland dugout as many offered their condolences.

One of Merchant’s daughters, Jessica, was the captain on the 2005 Michigan National Championship team and is currently an assistant coach at Minnesota along with her sister, Macy. Jessica Merchant was named Big Ten Player of the Year.

Wayland (35-2) will play Frankenmuth in the final on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Frankenmuth (37-3-1) defeated Carleton Airport in the other semifinal, 4-0. Frankenmuth scored two unearned runs in the third inning and added two runs in the seventh.

Wayland scored four runs in the first on three hits, a walk and two sacrifices.

“Things just got away from us in that first inning,” St. Clair coach Kevin Mahn said. “That kind of set the tone right off the bat. It’s hard to bounce back after something like that against a great pitcher like that.”

St. Calir (23-13) was making its first semifinal appearance.

Winning pitcher Mallory Teunissen gave up two hits, two walks and she struck out nine. Twice Teunissen struck out the side.

“I was really excited,” Teunissen said. “I said before the game, let’s score in the first inning, and not wait. It took the stress way down. I’m happy to be (in the finals).”

Wayland scored seven run on eight hits in the top of the fifth to put the game away.

Last season Wayland lost in the semifinals to Livonia Ladywood, 4-2, in 10 innings.

The Wildcats’ only other final appearance came in 2006 when it defeated Monroe Jefferson, 7-4.

Frankenmuth will make its third final appearance. In 2011 it lost to Clinton, 4-2, in the final and in 1991 the Eagles won the Class C title by defeating Riverview Gabriel Richard 8-1.

Amariah Wright recorded her third shutout in four games as the senior allowed four hits, struck out nine and walked one. Wright also had a run scoring single.

Wright said getting that early lead was just the lift her team needed.

“It’s a big difference,” she said. “One thing can determine a game. You never know what’s going to happen.

“Last year was a building year for us. I’ve been waiting for this since my freshman year.”

Frankenmuth did not commit an error, Airport had two.

Emily Bindus went all seven innings for Airport (36-5) and gave up three hits, two walks and she struck out nine. Three of the runs were unearned.

Frankenmuth has seven seniors, six of whom are starters. Coach Brad Walraven said the experience has paid off.

“One thing you have to know is sometimes seniors lose focus,” Walraven said. “With all of the things that happen this time of year. It’s starts on the mound.”

The teams have a day off before the final and Ritz said her team needs “to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

“I told them we have another angel in the sky. Every game I look to the sky during the National Anthem.”  

A few years ago Ritz’s father died in an automobile accident.