Unionville-Sebewaing advances to fourth straight title game, Kalamazoo Christian advances for third straight time in D-4
East Lansing – In its previous three trips to the softball state finals, Unionville-Sebewaing coach Steve Bohn said his team has struggled to come up with key hits in big moments.
And while the Patriots struggled to come up with offense of any kind in the first three innings, they would get the message from their coach, and not long after, Unionville-Sebewaing responded in a big way.
Behind two runs in the fourth and a run each in the fifth and sixth innings, the Patriots knocked off previously unbeaten Holton 4-1, to advance to a fourth consecutive state championship game.
In the Division 4 state championship game, Unionville-Sebewaing will face Kalamazoo Christian, last year’s runner up in Division 4.
The previous two seasons, Unionville-Sebewaing (37-3) finished as runner up in Division 3.
“We had a little bit of a tough time in the first few innings,” Bohn said. “I kind of just said to the girls that I’m tired of coming down here and not getting big hits when it counts and they responded, so we live to play another day.”
The first three-plus innings proved to be a pitcher’s duel between Patriots starter Nicole Bauer and Holton (37-1) senior Rachel Younts, who didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the fourth inning.
But Bauer would break-up the no-hitter in the fourth inning with a double, and the next batter, Erica Treiber would notch an RBI single to give Unionville-Sebewaing a 1-0 lead.
The Patriots would push their lead to 2-0, when the next batter, Madison Zimmer, would record another RBI single.
That would be enough run support for Bauer, who would allow just one run, which came in the sixth inning, and struck out 11 batters, while scattering four hits.
Bauer said that when her team was able to give her the lead in the fourth inning, it took plenty of pressure off of her going forward.
“A lot, I just love that cushion,” she said. “It makes me feel a lot better.”
In the bottom of the fifth, an RBI triple from Katie Engelhardt pushed the Unionville-Sebewaing lead to 3-0.
After Holton plated its first run of the game on an RBI triple off the bat of Jacki Stone in the top of the sixth, the Patriots responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning to seal the win.
Bauer noted that she feels her team likes doing its damage after the first time through the lineup, and credited Younts for keeping the Patriots off balance early on, as she was a faster paced pitcher than the one they faced in the quarterfinal.
“Our team likes the second or third time through the lineup, that’s when we really start firing up,” she said. “It was a big change from our last game and the pitcher was a lot slower, but we did well against the pressure.”
Kalamazoo Christian 13, Hillman 2
East Lansing – Coming into the season, Kalamazoo Christian coach Terry Reynolds had a set of expectations in mind for his young team after the Comets made back-to-back trips to the Division 4 finals and won a title in 2013.
But those expectations haven’t quite measured up to what the Comets have accomplished so far in the 2015 season as they prepared for Friday’s Division 4 semifinal against Hillman.
Once again on Friday afternoon, the Comets exceeded their coach’s expectations as they rolled into the Division 4 finals, beating Hillman 13-2 in five innings to advance to a third straight title game.
“It’s surreal, I never expected this,” Reynolds said of his team’s run. “When we talked back in March, Dave Doorn and I were just talking about what we were going to do and where we were going to play and what do you think? We were projecting to be fourth in our conference, and we ended up winning it, I don’t know how, I don’t understand it.
“Districts, we knew we had a chance, regionals, I just said it was a great year and then we won quarters the other night and I’m going ‘Where is this going?’ and now I’m saying ‘Wow, what a group of girls.’ This is so fantastic. It’s unbelievable.”
Already out to a 6-0 lead entering the fourth inning, the Comets (29-14) put the game away as they would string together eight consecutive hits to take complete control of the game.
Starting with an RBI double from Monica Locker, followed by an RBI single from Kara Gjeltema, who would later score on a pass ball, Kalamazoo Christian pushed its lead to 9-0 with just one out.
Stephanie Richardson would connect for a two-RBI single and the next batter, Jill Rozeveld would notch an two-RBI triple to take a 13-0 lead after four innings.
Gjeltema said that with the win clinching a third straight year in a state championship game, it’s obviously an exciting moment, while adding that the fact the Comets weren’t expected to make it to the final is another exciting part of this year’s trip.
“For me and McKenna (Razenberg), this is our third year back, so it’s a big deal for us,” she said. “We’re a young team, we didn’t think we’d get here, but we did and we came out on top and we’ll hopefully come out on top in the finals.”
In the top of the fifth, Hillman (30-4) would plate two runs, one on an RBI double from senior Eden Hunt, to cut the deficit to 13-2 before the mercy rule came into play after five innings.