Chippewas shooting for sixth straight title

Manistee’s Valerie Urban. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

The last time Manistee squared off against Montague, the Chippewas edged the Wildcats 5-4 in last year’s district final.

Manistee will need to get past Montague in a semifinal today just to keep its hopes alive for a sixth straight district title.

“We’re going to expect the best out of them and the best out of us,” said Manistee coach Denise Lijewski.

Mason County Central and Hart will play a 10 a.m. semifinal while district host Manistee follows with Montague at noon. Winners play for the district title at 2 p.m.

The Chippewas (25-3), who have won 12 straight games, swept both MCC and Hart in the regular season, as did Montague.

“I’m expecting good competition and a well-rounded team — two well-rounded teams so it’s going to be a good game,” said Manistee senior shortstop Megan Vander Weele.

Manistee needed a rally and seventh-inning home run from senior Destiny Blake to edge Shelby 7-6 in a district quarterfinal on Wednesday.

“I think it makes us realize there’s still work to be done and we’ve got to play better if we want to win the title,” junior pitcher Haley Maser said after the win.

The Chippewas will be looking to clean up their defense after committing seven errors against Shelby.

“The key is to play relaxed,” Lijewski said. “If you’re too tight, you’re going to make mistakes. We need to figure out how to loosen everyone up and they can play their game like they have been all season.”

By drawing the second semifinal, the Chippewas would need back-to-back victories in order to win the title, which apparently isn’t an issue.

“It doesn’t really make a difference,” Blake said. “I think back-to-back is probably better because we’re used to doubleheaders as it is.”

Blake and Maser have pitched the Chippewas to their last two district titles in pressure situations.

“I’ve got a couple good arms right there,” Lijewski said, “and I’m playing in my mind with how I want to set up those games.”

Former longtime Manistee coach Bob Johnson, Blake’s grandfather, passed away on Friday morning and had a big impact on a number of the Chippewas, who would love to honor the program’s biggest figure with another postseason trophy.

“We’re going to have to come prepared,” Lijewski said. “We have to earn it; it’s not going to be handed to us.”

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