by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
Rogers City scored five runs on six hits in the first inning and held on for a 7-5 win over Rudyard in the Division 4 softball quarterfinals in Petoskey Tuesday. The first inning looked to set the stage for another blowout Huron win, but that would not be the case. The Lady Hurons scored a run in the second and another in the third before Rudyard made it close.
“I give Rudyard a lot of credit. They kept battling. We got out to a big lead and they kept battling back. I am really proud of our girls and now we get to move on,” said coach Karl Grambau.
The calmness and confidence of the girls has been a trademark of this team, Grambau said. Many on the team have experienced success at the state level in basketball, volleyball and softball.
“Our girls don’t get rattled. They stay within the moment. We knew that Rudyard was going to keep battling and we knew we just had to make some plays,” Grambau said.
Kyrsten Altman set down the first nine Rudyard batters in order before things got interesting in the fourth inning. After a bunt single to lead off the inning, the runner stole second and advanced to third and then scored on a pair of passed balls. Altman struck out the next batter before the next three batters reached base on an error, a single and a hit by pitch.
Altman got the next hitter on a strikeout, but two runs scored on a dropped pop up in the infield, making the score 7-3. The next Rudyard hitter delivered softly-hit single to right field, scoring another run. Senior shortstop Kayla Rabeau made a great-over-the shoulder running catch of a flair destined for the outfield grass to get the Hurons out of the inning.
“Kayla is just like a magician out there. She really made a good play in how she turned her body around and caught it,” Grambau said.
When the dust settled, Rudyard had scored four runs on two hits in the inning and hopes of a blow-out win faded.
Rabeau led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and stole second, but two pop-outs and a groundout left her stranded.
Rudyard went down 1-2-3 in the fifth and the Hurons squandered a chance in the bottom of the frame. Junior catcher Amanda Wirgau led off by smashing a ball to center field that was misplayed into a two-base error. With Jordyn Schalk running for the Huron catcher, the next three Hurons went out. Linnea Hentkowski lined out hard to first base and Alissa Bowden and pinch hitter Catheryn Hart both struck out.
Rudyard ‘s cleanup hitter blasted a long home run to lead off the sixth to make the score 7-5.
The Hurons ran into some back luck in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Rabeau singled and Hannah Fleming followed with a single and an error on the center fielder moved runners to second and third. Rudyard elected to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Taylor Fleming to load the bases.
Then Altman hit a hard grounder to the second baseman. It appeared the ball got by the second baseman before a collision occurred between her and Taylor Fleming, who was on her way to second base. That was not how the umpire saw it. He called it a dead ball, ruled Taylor Fleming out for interference and sent Rabeau back to third and Hannah Fleming back to second after both had crossed the plate with apparent runs.
Wirgau then drilled a ball to the deepest part of center field where it was caught for the third out of the inning. Threat over.
In the seventh, Altman set down the side in order to close out the win.
Rogers City’s big inning came in the first when Jayna Hance led off the game with a double and advanced to third on Rabeau’s bunt-single. Hannah Fleming drilled a ball off the pitcher’s glove, scoring Hance. Taylor Fleming belted a double to straightaway center, scoring Rabeau. After Altman lined out to shortstop, Wirgau drilled a two-run single.
Bowden capped the scoring by hitting a double to drive in Schalk, who was running for Wirgau.
In the Huron second, Hance led off with a triple to right and scored on Taylor Fleming’s double. Rogers City got its other run in the third when Wirgau walked and pinch runner Schalk scored on freshman center fielder Kristin Brege’s single.
Rabeau had three hits while Taylor Fleming had a pair of doubles with two RBI. Hance had a double and a triple and Hannah Fleming had two singles.
Altman allowed four hits and struck out 11 batters without a walk. She did hit one batter with a pitch.
Rogers City (33-5) and ranked No. 1 in the last coaches’ poll, now advances to the state semifinals at Michigan State University (MSU) to play Coleman, ranked No. 2 in the same poll. That game is set for Friday at 3 p.m. Coleman, the 2005 state champion, nipped No. 5 Frankfort 1-0 in its quarterfinal contest.
The winners play for the state Division 4 title at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at MSU.
Unionville Sebewaign Area, an honorable mention in the poll, and state champion in 2009, 2015 and 2016, plays Centreville, ranked No. 10 in the other Division 4 semifinal.
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This is the fifth time the Hurons have made the final four in softball. The 2001 team, coached by Charlie Fairbanks, finished second to Niles Brandywine in the Division 3 finals. The 2004 team, coached by Grambau, lost to Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in the Division 4 state championship game. The 2013 team lost to Kalamazoo Christian in the semifinals. Rogers City took the state championship with a win over Kalamazoo Christian in 2014.