Gaylord, Vicksburg Post Semifinal Shutouts to Set Up Title Game Rematch

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 13, 2024

EAST LANSING – Gaylord possessed one of the most productive offenses in MHSAA history entering Thursday’s first Division 2 Semifinal.

The top-ranked Blue Devils showed no signs of a power failure in securing a spot in Saturday’s Final.

Gaylord scored in four of the seven innings in a 9-0 victory over Milan at Secchia Stadium.

The reigning Division 2 champion has recorded more than 400 RBIs this season and has outscored its last four postseason opponents by a combined 48-4.

“We just prepare really hard in practice and put a lot of time in,” Blue Devils coach Ron Moeggenberg said. “The offense is very good. We hit the long ball, and we can play short game. We do a little bit of everything, so it’s very special.” 

Gaylord hopes to repeat Saturday when it faces Vicksburg in a rematch of last year’s Final. First pitch is at 12:30 p.m.

Senior shortstop Aubrey Jones was one of four Blue Devils to have multiple hits against Milan. She started and ended the scoring.

Jones’ RBI single in the first inning gave Gaylord a 1-0 lead, and her two-run blast in the sixth capped the win. 

“It’s all about my team, and I'm just glad I could do something for my team,” Jones said. “I knew I would get one eventually because my (at) bats before that were decent. Just getting my pitch and doing what I could with it to help my team get a few more runs on the board.”

Senior hurler Jayden Jones, who scattered six hits through seven innings and struck out four to earn the shutout win, also had two hits.

Addison Wangler went 2-for-3, while Nora Bethuy registered two hits and scored two runs.

“No one trains like we do,” Aubrey Jones said. “We are very deliberate in our practice, and it shows up with the confidence we have at the plate because we know if we don't do it then the person behind us will.”

Kennedy Wangler cleared the bases with a two-out double in the third inning, and Gaylord went ahead 4-0.

The Blue Devils tacked on two more runs in the fourth.

“We said once we got past their pitcher the first time through we would start going after that,” Moeggenberg said. “It’s kind of the way it's been, and not at any time was I nervous about what was going on in the beginning. I knew we would prevail.”

Timely hitting also has been a trademark of Gaylord throughout the season.

“We’ve done a lot of that this year with two outs,” Moeggenberg said. “I’m not surprised that the girls just stayed focused. Our approach with two outs is the same as no outs. We don’t put any pressure on ourselves.” 

This was Milan’s second trip to the Semifinals.

“Their defense was just phenomenal,” Big Reds coach Kirk Davis said. “We didn’t get too many strong hits, and they were able to field everything. We have a good pitcher (Mariah Stines) and she usually is able to shut people down, but their offense is good and they hit a lot of balls in the gaps. It was tough.”

Click for the full box score.

Vicksburg 4, North Branch 0

Vicksburg was motivated to get another opportunity to play for the Division 2 championship.

The No. 4 Bulldogs (37-7) will get another crack at the team that spoiled their title hopes a year ago. Gaylord won last year’s Division 2 Final matchup 8-3.

“We've worked all year for this,” Vicksburg senior pitcher Delaney Monroe said. “We said last year that we wanted to get back to this point, and now we are back here and it's the best feeling in the world.

Vicksburg’s Brooklynn Ringler (4) slides into second during her team’s Semifinal win.“It was a hard time last year with that loss, and having the opportunity to be back here against that team is even better – to have the opportunity to get them back.”

Vicksburg coach Paul Gephart didn’t want to use the word “revenge,” but he’s hopeful for a different outcome with eight returning starters from last year’s run.

“It's a new year, it’s a new season and, obviously, it's going to be a challenge,” he said. “They are extremely good, and they've been ranked No. 1 the entire year and rightfully so. They’ve earned it, and they've deserved it until someone can upset them. Hopefully we will be the ones to do it.”

Vicksburg took an early 3-0 lead in top of the second inning by taking advantage of two North Branch errors and a hit batsman. 

The Bulldogs manufactured another run in the fifth with a bunt single by Madison Diekman, a hit batsman and a fielder's choice. 

“Offensively we didn't hit like we normally would, but I think we capitalized on their mistakes and we took advantage of the opportunities that they presented us to score,” Gephart said. “Delaney always pitches pretty well here at the end since she's been healthy, and our defense is always pretty solid. We don’t make a whole lot of mistakes defensively.”  

The Bulldogs managed only five hits, but Monroe kept the Broncos off the scoreboard with six strikeouts. She didn’t walk a batter and scattered five hits.

North Branch (15-20) came in as the only team in the Semifinals with a sub-.500 record, but won eight straight before Thursday’s season-ending defeat.

Senior ace Alana Deshetsky kept her team in the game with seven strikeouts and only one walk. She allowed only five hits and two earned runs.

“I stacked our schedule, and we played a lot of top-notch teams,” Broncos coach Alyssa Welling said. “I don’t think we won a game in May, but I knew we had the talent and I knew we could do it.

“We had one bad inning, and in the game of softball one bad inning can really put you south, but we weren't even supposed to make it out of Districts. People didn't have us winning Districts or getting out of Regionals, so we are so grateful to be here and we put in the work to be here.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Gaylord’s Aubrey Jones throws to first Thursday as Milan’s Tierra Ronayne slides into second base. (Middle) Vicksburg’s Brooklynn Ringler (4) slides into second during her team’s Semifinal win.