Evart Little League team finishes third in state tournament

The Evart 9-10-year-old girls little league softball team qualified for the state tournament and ended up getting third in the state. (Courtesy photo)

EVART — The Evart 9-10-year-old girls little league softball team qualified for the state tournament and ended up getting third in the state.

This year’s squad recently finished its season advancing to the state semifinals.

“At the beginning of July 10, girls were selected to represent Evart in the Little League state tournament,” coach Shaun Gray said. “This tournament has 16 districts throughout the state with each district having their own district/sectional tournament before advancing to the State tournament. The amount of support our community showed us last year was unexpected. I found out last year that our community was a lot closer than I would’ve ever thought. I thank those girls and the game of softball for showing what we can accomplish if we stick together and support each other.”

The girls played in Jackson this year.

“Last year, I had experience and most of my team played travel ball all summer long, playing key spots and hitting high up in the order,” Gray said. “I only have three girls total that was on last year’s team, the three other girls on this year’s travel ball team had to be thrown into positions that they weren’t used to, and four girls on this year’s team had never seen any type of competitive ball.”

In the district’s round robin format, Evart beat Reed City 7-2 in the first game, White Lake 10-0 in the second game and Reed City 4-0 in the championship game.

“Our three returning players were leaders in districts,” Gray said. “Mattisen Tiedt in three games didn’t get out. Keira Elder was behind the plate. Those two were on last year’s team but played way different roles. To see those two adapt and adjust to the hand given to them is a proud moment for a coach.

“One player who did have the same role as last year was pitcher and leadoff hitter Kyrah Gray. In three games she allowed six hits, three walks, two runs, and 38 strikeouts in 17 innings. “I guess if you’re going to have three returning players, it’s nice one of those three is the pitcher you had last year, plus a year older.”

Evart went to Jackson and the 16 teams that qualified were divided into four pools of four teams. The top two teams from each pool makes the quarterfinals. In the first game vs. Tecumseh, the girls won 11-4.

“I think the girls were in awe for the first few innings,” Gray said. “It took until the third to score and go up 1-0 only to go down 2-1 instantly at the bottom of the third.”

Evart then scored nine runs in the fourth and fifth inning before winning 11-4. In the second game against Grosse Pointe, which eventually tied for third with Evart, the Osceola County team scored six runs in the first inning to win 8-1. In the third game against West Branch, Evart took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth before scoring eight runs to win on the mercy rule 10-0.

“By going 3-0 Evart, qualified for the quarterfinals for the second year in a row,” Gray said. “To show how hard this is, Evart was the only team in the state to accomplish this achievement. In pool play we got great pitching, and luckily always had that one big inning to blow the game open.”

In the quarterfinals it was more of the same. Evart scored four in the first and never looked back, winning 9-0 against South Portage.

“Those four games were surprising because I wasn’t sure before districts we would even get past Reed City and now here we are getting ready to go to the final four for a second straight year,” Gray said.

Evart won in Jackson a familiar way.

“From the start of districts to quarters, they kept getting timely hits from the new girls on the team,” Gray said. “Mattisen Tiedt was hot at the plate and there was the battery of Elder and Gray. Elder behind the plate is just like having a coach and for her to be a 10-year old and first-year catcher, that’s pretty impressive and sometimes overlooked, which is often to her advantage.

“Gray was dominant through the first four games, getting stronger as the tournament went on. By the time the quarterfinal game was done, she was on a 14 innings scoreless streak. She was so huge for us with her bat but that all gets overshadowed when she pitches like that. She carried us.”

For the first four games at state, Gray gave up eight hits, seven walks, five runs, 53 strikeouts and a 150 innings scoreless streak against in the middle of it.

In the semifinals, Evart fell to eventual tournament champion Georgetown, 9-1. The score was 0-0 after the first inning but things Spefell apart after that.

“They were a very good team out of Grand Rapids area,” Gray said. “They beat teams 43-1 in pool play and in quarterfinals was in a nail biter with a very good Clare team winning 1-0. That kind of humbled them a little bit and think it got them ready for our pitcher, plus they had us scouted very well. They had a pitcher just as good if not better than ours. I take my hat off to a good team both players and coaches.

“What a ride these girls got to experience this last month, for some two years in a row.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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