Reed City defeats Morley Stanwood to capture regional title

EVART — Roger Steig is a firm believer in setting attainable goals.

Before the start of the season, Steig and his Reed City softball team set their sights on a regional title and a shot at playing in the state quarterfinals. With an 8-4 win over Manistee in the regional semifinal, followed by a come from behind 6-5 win over Morley Stanwood, the Coyotes are starting to come up with some new goals.

“You always like to set goals that are achievable,” Steig said. “Getting to the quarterfinals was definitely our goal. Now we’ve got to reset it. Hopefully we’ll go a little further than that. We’re three games away from our goal now.”

CHAMPS: Reed City softball players celebrate their regional title on Saturday at Evart High School. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

To reach their initial goal, Reed City had to take down a pair of teams that had bested them earlier this season. The Coyotes split a doubleheader against Manistee midway through the season and were mercied in both games of a doubleheader against Morley Stanwood early in the conference season. Reed City advanced to the Division 3 state quarterfinal, which will take place at noon on Tuesday at Traverse City West.

This time around, it was the Coyotes that came up with big hits — none bigger than a two RBI double by Heather Huss to give Reed City a 6-5 lead in the final that it would not relinquish. A pair of clutch pitching performances from senior Courtney Morgan resulting in a pair of wins helped keep the season alive for the Coyotes.

“This team has been great at battling back,” Steig said. “We stayed focused and never got down. We knew eventually we would get to their pitcher and score runs. In the end we got a huge hit from out No. 8 hitter (Heather Huss) that won us the game.”

With her team trailing 5-4, Huss said she wasn’t used to the kind of pressure she was facing with two outs in the sixth, but was happy she was able to deliver.

“They told me we had to get a big hit because we needed runs … and I did,” she said. “I felt like the whole game was on my shoulders. It felt really good (to get the hit).”

It wasn’t an ideal start for the Coyotes, who fell behind 3-0 in the first inning to the Mohawks in the final, courtesy of a three-run homer by Mekayla Carey. Alyssa Nelson added an RBI single in the second to extend the lead to 4-0.

Reed City began to chip away at the lead, however, picking up its first run on an RBI triple by Morgan to make it 4-1. The Coyotes scored on a throwing error, followed by an RBI single by Amanda Steig to make it 4-3.

Carey came through with an RBI single in the fourth to give Morley Stanwood a 5-3 lead, but the Mohawks would not come up with a run the rest of the way.

Morley Stanwood coach Andrea Raven said her team didn’t come up with enough timely hits or critical plays to win the regional.

“I’m not sure our pitch selection was all that great,” she said. “We got behind in some counts.

“Reed City did a really nice job putting pressure on us,” she added. “They made the plays that they had to make, so give them credit, because they deserve it.”

Perhaps the most critical performance in the title game came from Morgan, who settled down in the circle after a rough start. The senior had only started back-to-back games on one other occasion during the season, and admitted she was starting to wear down.

“About the fourth inning I was starting to slow down,” Morgan said. “Coach said ‘you look like you’re slowing down,’ and I said ‘No I’m not, I’ve got this, I’ve got this.’ The next inning (Morley Stanwood) went three up, three down, and (Steig) said ‘Yep, you’re right, you’ve got this.’”

Steig said he didn’t see any signs of quitting from Morgan or any other member of his team.

“Morley Stanwood is a great team and they got us down early 3-0,” he said. “I never felt for a moment that there was any quit in this dugout. They didn’t panic — we know we can hit the ball, so we’re always in the game.”

There was no doubt Morgan would come through when needed, senior catcher Amanda Steig said.

“Courtney is very strong, both mentally and physically,” she said. “She can handle two games. When she got in trouble she got herself out of it and the defense was backing her up.”

The win was an emotional one for Steig, who credited her team for not getting down on themselves after falling behind early.

“It feels so unreal to me,” she said. “We have been working toward this goal all season. To reach it is surreal.”

Morgan gave up five runs on 11 hits, while walking one batter in the win. She struck out three Morley Stanwood hitters.

Morgan also led the way offensively with two hits, while Amanda Steig, Sydney Arnold, Taylor Steig, Sam McDonald, Huss and Skiler Brigham each had one hit.

Sarah Lagendyk took the loss for the Mohawks, who ended their season at 30-12. Morley Stanwood was led offensively by Sam Carey and Alyssa Nelson, who each had three hits. Mekayla Carey had two hits and four RBIs in the loss.

Although it wasn’t the result she was hoping for, Raven said she was proud of everything her team was able to accomplish this season.

“I’m completely proud of our team,” she said. “Obviously I wish we would have come up with a couple more plays and some more hits and this game would’ve had a different outcome. But that’s the way it goes, and all year long we’ve kind of battled those issues and (Saturday) it kind of came back and bit us.”

In the win over Manistee, Morgan went all seven innings, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out seven.

Amanda Steig led the way offensively with two hits, including a three-run homer that gave the Coyotes a 6-1 lead in the fourth. Brigham had two hits, including a critical two-run double to center that broke a 1-1 tie in the same inning.

Taylor Steig and Emma Lockhart each had two hits in the win, while McDonald, Ally Stieg and Huss each had an RBI.

To reach the final, Morley Stanwood took down Kent City, 10-5. Nelson was the winning pitcher, giving up four hits and five walks while striking out eight.

The Mohawks were led offensively by Mekayla Carey with a hit and three RBIs, while Caitlin Andrews had an RBI triple. Jennie Kizer added an RBI double, while Lagendyk had a hit and scored two runs. Sam Carey had a hit and a run, Lindsey Veersma had a hit and MacKenzie Hoisington added an RBI.

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