by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
A major hurdle has been cleared for the Lady Huron softball team. The team blitzed by Pellston in the regional opener, 19-1 before staring down the defending state champions for the regional title. Inland Lakes not only was the defending Division 4 state champion, but also hosted the regionals on their home field Saturday (June 9).
That didn’t phase the heavy-hitting Hurons as Rogers City took a 4-2 win over Inland Lakes to move on to the state Division 4 quarterfinals.
“It was a really good game with two really good teams battling it out. We pulled it off today. Hats off to our girls. These girls are resilient and they just keep playing,” said coach Karl Grambau after the game.
The game turned out to be a classic, with great pitching, clutch hitting and sometimes-spectacular defense. The pitching came from a pair of sophomore starters, Kyrsten Altman of Rogers City and Gracey Henkel of Inland Lakes. Altman limited the Lady Bulldogs to five hits, one of them a solo homer by Henkel, and struck out 11 batters without a walk.
Henkel also had 11 strikeouts, including a stretch where she struck out seven out of eight batters, but allowed nine hits, a walk and hit a batter.
The hitting came from a two-run homer by senior third baseman Hannah Fleming in the third inning. After Kayla Rabeau singled to center, Fleming blasted her second homer of the day.
Inland Lakes answered with a run in the top of the fourth inning when the lead off batter singled and one out later moved to third on a bloop double down the left field line. She scored on a sacrifice fly to left.
Huron left fielder Alissa Bowden had a two-out infield hit in the fourth and advanced to second on a error on the throw, but was stranded at second base. Altman set down the side in order in the top of the fifth and the Hurons squandered a chance in the bottom of the inning.
Pinch hitter Jazmyn Saile looped a fly ball into right field that was misplayed. Linnea Hentkowski reentered to run. She moved to second on Jayna Hance’s sacrifice bunt and to third on a wild pitch. With Rabeau at the plate, coach Grambau called for the squeeze play, but Rabeau didn’t connect on a pitch outside the strike zone and Hentkowski was picked off third for the first out of the inning. Rabeau ended up singling, as did Hannah Fleming after her. They were left stranded as Henkel struck out cleanup hitter Taylor Fleming for the final out of the inning. That left the score tied 2-2.
Altman again set down Inland Lakes in order in the top of the sixth inning on a grounder, a pop out and a strikeout. She led off the bottom of the sixth with a long drive to centerfield. Approaching the fence, the centerfielder leaped, got a glove on the ball, but the momentum of the ball carried it over the fence for a solo home run and a 3-2 Huron lead. Amanda Wirgau followed that with a single and moved to second on Bowden’s sacrifice bunt. She scored on Hance’s single.
Needing three outs to claim the regional championship, the Hurons had a difficult time with the defending state champions.
The leadoff hitter hit a hard grounder that landed her safe on an error and the next batter doubled. With the potential tying run at the second base, Altman then struck out the next two batters. That set up the defensive play of the day. The next hitter lofted a popup in foul territory down the left field line. Rabeau streaked over from her shortstop position and made a diving catch sliding near the fence to preserve the win.
Rabeau three hits and Hannah Fleming two of the Hurons eight hits in the championship game.
In the regional semifinal earlier in the day, Hance struck out two and walked one in the 19-1 win over Pellston. Hance went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI as did Rabeau. Hannah Fleming had a grand slam as the top three players in the batting order went a combined 8-for-10 with two walks, three home runs and 10 RBI.
Rogers City (32-5) plays Rudyard at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Petoskey High School in the Division 4 quarterfinals. The winner of that game advances to the state semifinals at Michigan State University to play the winner of the Frankfort vs. Coleman quarterfinal being played Tuesday at Rockford.
In regional baseball action, Onaway topped Mio in the semifinal game 5-1 as Trevor Wregglesworth went all seven innings. He struck out eight, including the first five men he faced in tossing a three-hitter.
Gaylord St. Mary defeated the Cards in the regional finals. More details and photos will be in the June 14 edition of the Advance.