D3 SEMIS: Millington pulls away from Standish-Sterling to return to title game; Schoolcraft rallies to beat Dundee in extras
EAST LANSING — Millington coach Greg Hudie might have a bucket list, but he assuredly has bucket criteria.
When a game is still in doubt, it’s too close for him to sit down on his bucket and watch.
But when a game gets a margin that he feels comfortable — as did Friday’s Division 3 semifinal against Standish Sterling Central, once the Cardinals stretched the lead out to six — he’ll finally relax.
The 10th year coach was able to watch as pitcher Gabbie Sherman closed out a 7-1 semifinal win, sending the Cardinals back to the championship game for a second straight year.
“Very (comforting). I thought it was going to be 1-0 for a while. Their defense is stellar. I’ve known that. We beat them twice this season in a doubleheader. We won 6-0 and 8-0, but it was like they were just robbing us of hits. I mean, they are sensational on defense. So I figured it was going to be scarce in scoring,” Hudie said of the late three-run rally that put the Cardinals up six.
“It was nice to open it up a bit, so I could sit on my bucket. The girls, I don’t want them to relax, but I could sit on my bucket in the seventh inning, and just go ‘All right, here we go …’ I can breathe and I don’t have to stress out.”
The Cardinals (37-2-1) are in East Lansing for the third time in four seasons, with the last two ending up in the championship game. They lost 4-2 in the 2016 semifinals to Grandville Calvin Christian, but beat Sanford Meridian (5-3) in last season’s semis, before falling to Coloma, 7-6, in a game Millington once led 5-1.
“It’s extremely exciting. This is what we’ve worked for all season, and we’re coming back to win it this year. I’m so proud of my team, and I know we can do it this year. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve put all the work in. It’s time for us to go out and get it,” Sherman said. “To avenge last season’s loss, we just have to come out and play like we can, and we can get it. I think that coming back and winning it this year will feel really good, especially after last year. We just have to play our type of ball. And we can’t just go out thinking they’re going to give it to us. We’re going to have to go out and take it and play.”
Millington will play Schoolcraft in the D3 championship game at 5:30 p.m.
That’s been the goal all season long.
“Yeah, absolutely. To get here and have a chance is the main goal. We have that chance, and hopefully we can capitalize on that,” Hudie said. “The girls are mentally ready, physically ready. Last year, we made it here, but it’s not the same feeling. The girls want it bad, and we’re prepared.”
Madi Hahn’s RBI single in the fourth broke the scoreless tie, then Leah Denome — who is hitting .750 (15-for-20) with three homers, two triples and 10 RBI in six postseason games — blasted a two-run homer to the photographer’s platform behind the center field wall, making it 3-0.
Standish Sterling got a run back in the fifth, when Taylor Stodolak’s triple to right field scored pinch runner Karasyn Kraska from first base, but Millington would get it right back in the top of the sixth, when pinch runner Ashley Ziel stole third, then scooted home when the misplayed throw rolled away from the Panther fielders.
Sherman drove in the first of the three seventh-inning runs. A second run scored on an error, then Hannah Rabideau drove in the this with a single to left.
Schoolcraft 4, Dundee 3 (8 inn.)
EAST LANSING — One twin tied it with a blast down the right-field line, then the other won it for Schoolcraft with a dribbler that never got to first base.
The Eagles (32-4) rallied from three runs down to beat Dundee (33-10), 4-3 in extra innings, earning a spot in their first-ever championship game.
Allie Goldschmeding beat out a bases-loaded dribbler down the first-base line to deliver the game-winning run. Dundee’s coaching staff disputed that she reached the bag before the fielder, but once the umpires overruled the objection, the Eagles were able to celebrate.
“I was safe. I was like ‘I gotta run as hard as I can, and get to the base, because we gotta win,’” Allie Goldschmeding said. “It feels amazing. It feels great, because I just felt like, with the bases loaded and two outs, I could deliver for my team, and get them to the state championship game.”
Her twin, Kelby Goldschmeding, tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run homer in the sixth inning, setting up the extra innings.
“Kelby’s our home run hitter. She’s coming off an injury right now, so all she can really do is bat and run. It’s a little surprising that she pushed the ball, because she normally pulls everything. Perfect timing for it. It finally fired the girls up. We were a little down there for a while, until about the fourth or fifth, and then we started to finally pick it up, and the home run helped us a lot,” said coach Shane Berry, whose top five hitters were 1-for-13 going into the at-bat that produced the home run. “I think that’s only our second home run of the playoffs, after hitting 30-plus-something in the regular season. It came at the right time.”
Dundee got one run in the first on Emily Killion’s RBI groundout, but left seven runners on base through five innings. The Vikings made it a 3-0 game on McKenna Schmidt’s two-run homer to left in the fifth, but Schoolcraft got one back in the bottom of the inning, on Danielle Blyly’s infield hit.