by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
For the third time in as many years the Lady Hurons were ousted from the post season by the Inland Lakes Bulldogs. This year the Bulldogs crushed hopes of a state title for Rogers City with an 11-1 win in the state quarterfinals Tuesday in Gaylord.
The loss brought an end to a marvelous season that saw the Hurons (34-6) win the North Star League championship, district and regional titles. It also brought inconsolable tears to a group of players who put great effort into their game and enjoyed the ride.
“I think the tears show how much they care. The girls cared so much and they tried so hard. We wanted to have a better result, but today Inland Lakes was the better team,” said coach Karl Grambau after the game.
He said he hopes Inland Lakes goes on to win the state championship on behalf of all of northern Michigan.
If the Bulldogs bring the same hitting bats to East Lansing as they showed in Gaylord, the opponents are in for some tough competition. Inland Lakes knocked out three home runs among their 16 hits. All-state candidate Cloe Mallory worked a masterpiece on the mound and hit for power at the plate. She singled in the first, led off the third with a long double and blasted a solo homer in the fourth inning before walking in the sixth. On the mound she held the Hurons to just one hit while recording eight strikeouts.
“I told her (Mallory) that today was the best she pitched of the three times we faced her,” Grambau said. “She is a special player who has done a lot for the Inland Lakes program.”
Inland Lakes threatened in every inning but the fifth, when Huron pitcher Jayna Hance set down the side on two fly balls to right fielder Amanda Wirgau and a pop out to shortstop Kayla Rabeau.
The Bulldogs put two runners on base on singles in the first inning and loaded the bases in the second without scoring. Madison Milner’s homer scored Mallory in the third. Then Kimmy Rorick reached on an error and scored one out later on Makayla Henckel’s single up the middle. They added two more runs on solo home runs by leadoff hitter Pamela Braund and, after a lineout to second baseman Kyrsten Altman, another one to Mallory.
The Hurons were set down in order in the first three innings but got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Altman walked and was forced at second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Rabeau. A passed ball advanced Rabeau to second base. Then Hannah Fleming delivered an RBI single scoring Rabeau.
After that, only one of the next 11 Hurons reached base, that on a walk to senior catcher Mary Brege.
Inland Lakes added three runs on three hits, a walk and an error in the sixth and three more on four hits in the seventh inning.
“Hats off to our players. I thought we did lots of good things. We went undefeated in the conference, won our sixth-straight district title and won our fourth regional in five years. There are a lot of schools that would love do what we are doing. We just have to work hard now for next year,” Grambau said.
The coach singled out his three seniors for special comments.
“Mary Brege was a fantastic catcher for us and great leader on and off the field, cheering everybody on. She really came on at the end of the season. Hannah Dittmar had never played first base in her life until this season. I thought she did a fantastic job and played there all season for us. And Saige Wagner, in the designated player spot, which is a tough position to play, I thought she did a nice job,” Grambau said.
He is optimistic about the future as the team featured four juniors, six sophomores and a freshman.
Inland Lakes advances to the state semifinals where they play Kalamazoo Christian, a 4-0 winner over Mendon. Ottawa Lake Whiteford faces Coleman in the other Division 4 semifinal.