EAST LANSING-All season long, the Rogers City softball team kept believing and all season the Hurons kept achieving.
On Saturday, the Hurons accomplished their biggest goal of all.
Rogers City capped an extraordinary season and won its first ever state championship on Saturday, defeating Kalamazoo Christian 3-2 in the Division 4 final at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.
The Hurons (34-6) finished with three runs on eight hits and won a state title for the first time in three trips to the state finals. Rogers City finished runner-up in 2001 and 2004, but played like a team destined for greatness this time around.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for since I stepped on varsity my freshman year. This is amazing. This is what everybody worked so hard to get,” Rogers City junior third baseman Logan Fleming said. “We weren’t the ones to score first, but then we did have a comeback and just motivated off of that. That’s what gave us our energy and we just kept building off that.”
The win marked the second time the Hurons topped Kalamazoo this season, but in some respects, this game was also a measure of revenge for the Hurons after the Comets beat them in the semifinals last season en route to a championship.
Courtney Streich, Morgan Hall and Alexa Quaine each had two hits for the Hurons, who tied the game in the third inning and took the lead for good in the fifth inning.
Just as they did all season, the Hurons took control of the game by doing same things that led them to the finals. They were patient at the plate and waited for the right pitches to hit. Once they made contact, it was only a matter of time before the hits started coming. They made solid defensive play after solid defensive play. They kept calm and stayed focused on the task at hand.
“I’m really proud of our girls. They did a nice job and I’m really, really proud of them,” Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. “They stayed real calm today and we did what we wanted to do. We hit the good pitch and the defense played fantastic.”
With one out in the fifth inning, Hall singled and was then driven home by Quaine on an RBI double. In the seventh inning, Hall doubled home Sarah Meredith for Rogers City’s final run.
The Hurons got two ground outs in the bottom of the inning before the Comets rallied for one final run. After Cara Knasel doubled, Erica Block singled her home to cut the lead to 3-2. Madison Locker flied out to Rogers City left fielder Autumn Idalski to end the game, sending the triumphant Hurons streaming into left field in celebration.
“It was an awesome feeling. It was such a privilege to be able to get the last out of the game and every emotion was rushing through me. It was awesome,” Idalski said. “The nerves got to me a little bit, but I just knew I had to catch the ball, keep my eye on the ball and it all went down as planned.”
Nikki Radke earned the win for Rogers City, allowing two runs on five hits with three strikeouts. She was backed up by a defense that routinely made every play it needed to make. Of the Comets’ 21 outs, 10 came on groundouts. Another five came on fly balls to the outfield.
In a season marked by solid outings, Radke saved one of her best outings for the state’s biggest stage. She hit the first batter she faced, but locked in after the Comets scored an early run. At one point, Radke retired 15 straight batters and the Comets went hitless and without a base runner until the sixth inning.
I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now, I’m just so happy that we won,” Radke said. “I just came into this game like it was any other game and I knew I had to pitch my heart out today. It was last one, so I knew I had to come out and make a stand.”
Rogers City managed one hit in each of the first two innings before warming up in the third inning. With one out, three consecutive batters reached base and Meredith tied the game 1-1 with an RBI single to score Fleming. With two outs, Quaine walked to load the bases, but the Comets escaped the jam after Kayla Fleury struck out.
The Hurons left two runners aboard in each of the next two innings and left 10 runners stranded for the game. It didn’t matter much though as the Hurons kept making contact and eventually got enough runs to win.
Kalamazoo took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Rebekah VanDam doubled to score Kara Gjelterma. From there, Radke shut the Comets down, pitching four perfect innings. In the sixth inning, Kalamazoo got two runners on with two outs, but the Hurons ended the threat after Cassie Brege made a catch in center field.
Van Dam took the loss for the Comets, allowing three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts.
Rogers City’s season and state championship was celebrated with a victory parade on Sunday and Grambau said the title is a victory for all of Northern Michigan.
“It’s fantastic for our city. All small communities need a good shot in the arm and this is fantastic for our community and all the surrounding areas. When we left (on Friday), there were people standing and holding signs all the way to Tower and we appreciated it,” Grambau said. “We do this for all of Northern Michigan, so it’s good for our city and good for all of Northern Michigan.”
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.