EAST LANSING – Hartland senior pitcher Kylie Swierkos entered this weekend as one of the finalists for the state’s Miss Softball Award.
After the dominating, two-game performance she delivered at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium, she might have secured the prestigious honor – but that was the furthest thing from her mind Saturday afternoon.
“All I care about is that we won this for our school,” said Swierkos, who tossed her second consecutive four-hitter to lead Hartland to a 9-1 victory over Brownstown Woodhaven in the Division 1 Final.
“We have such a close group of girls; it’s not just me. Now I hope the younger girls take this and keep going with it.”
Swierkos, who improved to 23-1 on the season with a 0.81 ERA, shut out Lake Orion in Thursday’s Semifinal and came within two outs of another shutout Saturday before Woodhaven scored its only run in the top of the seventh inning.
Swierkos, who has committed to pitch at Grand Valley State University, struck out 13 batters on Saturday (20 for the weekend) and didn’t walk a single batter in either game.
“We know Kylie is going to do her job,” said fifth-year Hartland coach Taylor Wagner, who led the school to its first Softball Finals title since winning Class A in 1996. “Then we just have to bat a little bit behind her, and we did that all the way through the order, from one to nine.”
Hartland, 35-4-1, delivered nine hits, with two apiece from Abby Gardner, Kate McIntyre and Reese Dunny.
Senior Riley Phillips smacked a two-run triple for the second consecutive game, this one coming in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Sadie Malik also had two RBIs, including a run-scoring single as Hartland put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“I could not have asked for a more perfect ending to my senior year,” said Gardner, one of four seniors on the Hartland roster, along with Faith DeLanoy, Phillips and Swierkos.
The nine runs were more than enough offense for Swierkos, who pitched eight consecutive innings of perfect ball – starting with the fourth inning Thursday through the fourth inning Saturday, when the Warriors managed the first of their four hits.
Woodhaven, 35-5 and playing in its first Final, scored its only run in the top of the seventh inning after a leadoff double by Grace Walker.
The Warriors struggled to figure out Swierkos, then hurt themselves with three costly errors.
“We definitely put Woodhaven softball on the map, and we will be back,” said second-year coach Ken Kroll. “It was atypical of us to make those errors. But we just didn’t put enough hits together. When we did start to get something going, we got shut down.”
Grace Usher, a junior, allowed nine hits and struck out six over six innings. She finished the season 18-4 with a 1.40 ERA. Alaina Craig had her team’s lone RBI.
Just before her team took the podium to accept the championship trophy, Wagner was asked for two words to describe her feelings after guiding her team to its first Finals title in 27 years. Hartland also had finished Division 1 runner-up in 2018.
She answered with just one:
“Blessed,” said Wagner, who was assisted by Lindsay Brandon. “I am blessed to go through this with these girls and to be a small part of it.”
PHOTOS (Top) Hartland’s Kylie Swierkos (27) leaps into the arms of catcher Sadie Malik on Saturday. (Middle) The Eagles huddle in the pitching circle during the Division 1 Final. (Below) A Hartland hitter drives the ball. (Photos by Olivia Napier/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Join Kara Liles as we take a look at all of the action from the 2023 Softball State Finals Congratulations to our State Champions :
Division 1 - Hartland
Division 2 - Gaylord
Division 3 - Standish-Sterling
Division 4 - Unionville-Sebewaing