Manistee wins softball regional

 

Manistee’s softball team poses with the trophy it earned by winning the Division 3 regional title in Lakeview on Saturday. Front row, from left: Emily Thompson, Kelsey Harrigan, Mackenzie Thompson, Allie Zimmerman and Sydney Kruwell. Back row, from left: Coach Dave Lijewski, Cameron Edmondson, coach Jim Thompson, Emma Witkowski, Sydney Arendt, Nicole Zimmerman, Hannah Nemitz, Madison Miller, Sara Schaefer, Erin Vander Weele, Erin Dorn, coach Jonathan Blake and head coach Paul Maksym. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s softball team poses with the trophy it earned by winning the Division 3 regional title in Lakeview on Saturday. Front row, from left: Emily Thompson, Kelsey Harrigan, Mackenzie Thompson, Allie Zimmerman and Sydney Kruwell. Back row, from left: Coach Dave Lijewski, Cameron Edmondson, coach Jim Thompson, Emma Witkowski, Sydney Arendt, Nicole Zimmerman, Hannah Nemitz, Madison Miller, Sara Schaefer, Erin Vander Weele, Erin Dorn, coach Jonathan Blake and head coach Paul Maksym. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

LAKEVIEW — Manistee softball is looking more and more like a team of destiny.

The Chippewas remain alive in the Division 3 state tournament after winning their first regional title since 2011, dispatching Ravenna 3-2 in the semifinal and bringing home the hardware with a 10-6 win over Montague in the regional championship game.

With the win, Manistee advances to the state quarterfinals against Gladstone at Traverse City St. Francis on Tuesday.

“This is what we’ve worked so hard for, for the last six or seven months,” Manistee head coach Paul Maksym said. “I knew we were good, and I told the girls that we could be very good if they put everything together.

“The sky’s the limit. If we bring our ‘A’ game, we’ll be tough to beat.”

The Chippewas won two very different two games at the regionals, using late-inning dramatics to get by Ravenna and jumping out to a commanding lead and holding on against Montague.

Senior Mackenzie Thompson had the big hit in both games, an audacious, game-winning squeeze bunt in the seventh inning in the semifinal and a massive 3-run triple in the fifth inning of the final.

“There are no words to describe it,” Thompson said. “We’ve waited so long for this and it’s amazing.”

Kelsey Harrigan got the Chippewas on the board first in the semifinal, laying down a bunt single to lead off the third inning, going to second on a passed ball, and coming around to score when the Ravenna catcher compounded her error by attempting to gun Harrigan down but throwing the ball into center field.

The Bulldogs took the lead with two unearned runs in the bottom of the third, but Chippewa pitcher Sydney Arendt shut them down from there, allowing just two baserunners in the final four innings.

Hits were hard to come by for both teams, and Manistee had to play small ball to score its 2 crucial runs in the seventh inning.

Harrigan scored the tying run from second base on a bunt single by Erin Vander Weele. After Vander Weele advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, Thompson laid down a perfect 2-out bunt. Ravenna tried to get the third out at the plate, but failed to do so, and Vander Weele crossed the plate with what would be the winning run.

The Chippewas scored twice in the opening inning and never trailed in the championship game against Montague.

Vande Weele and Arendt scored those first two runs, and the two duplicated that feat in the third to give Manistee a 4-0 lead.

Madison Miller led off the fourth with an infield single, stole second, and then scored on a 2-base error by the Ravenna right fielder. Sara Schaefer, the beneficiary of that dropped fly ball, then came around to score on a single by Vande Weele to stretch the lead to 6-0.

Montague cut the lead with 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth, and the two teams each scored once to make the score 7-3 going into the sixth.

Schaefer and Harrigan each reached base on Bulldog errors to start the sixth, Vande Weele singled to load the bases, and then Thompson promptly unloaded them by driving a triple into the right-center field gap to blow the game open.

Thompson had also provided the winning hit in the only regular-season meeting between the two teams, slamming a walk-off home run to lift the Chippewas to an 8-7 win back on May 6.

But she said that homer was not in the front of her mind as she stood in the batter’s box.

“I just told myself, get a hit, get to first base to keep this inning going,” she said. “I just focused on hitting the ball, and that happened.”

But Montague did not go away quietly. Still trailing 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats started the inning with three consecutive singles.

Thompson, who had been cruising in the circle until then, gave way to Arendt, who mopped up by getting one out by fielding a bunt and the other two via strikeout to salt away the game and the regional title.

Part of the credit for Manistee’s run explosion has to go to the weather. The Chippewas played the first game in the morning, before the heat of the day became a factor.

Montague pitcher Courteney Lohman pitched every inning of both of her team’s games, and was cramping and obviously fatigued in the final.

“The heat definitely got to her,” Maksym said. “My heart bleeds for that young lady, she gave it her all. Throwing 250 pitches on a day like today, I don’t wish that on anybody.”

Maksym, on the other hand, had the luxury of two quality starters, allowing him the option of changing pitchers when necessary, which Thompson appreciated.

“I wouldn’t say I was out of gas,” she said. “Sure, you get warm when it’s 90 degrees, but my pitches weren’t falling. It was a good move by the coach. Sydney’s pitches came in clutch for us and clamped down the championship.

“It was awesome.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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