USA Follows in Champions' Footsteps

June 14, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

BATTLE CREEK — Tradition perpetuates itself in small kids who looked up to the big kids as heroes.

Junior Katie Gremel watched from the stands as an elementary school student as older sister Dani helped Unionville-Sebewaing win three MHSAA Division 3 softball championships. Dani Gremel played on championship teams in 2006, 2007 and 2009, scoring the winning run in the 2007 Final.

"I wanted to be just like her and get to my state championship," said Katie, a second-year varsity player. "I was here every year. I knew that one day I wanted to be here. That was my dream."

The Patriots are going to their fifth MHSAA championship game in the last eight years, in part, because of a tie-breaking single by Gremel in the sixth inning of a 4-3 victory over Holton on Friday at Bailey Park. They will play first-time finalist Dundee at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bailey Park.

With the game tied 2-2, Gremel hit a sharp single up the middle that hit the glove of pitcher Rachel Younts and just eluded the grasp of second baseman Katie Wildfong. Breanna Dinsmore, who singled and was bunted to second by pitcher Erica Treiber, scored on the play. Gremel scored an insurance run on an error. That run proved to be critical when Holton's Cassidy Van Blargan scored on an error in the top of the seventh.

"I was really nervous, but I knew my team had confidence in me," Gremel said. "It happens all the time when I have pressure on me. I usually get it down. That's what the coaches expect."

And that's why coach Steve Bohn had Treiber bunt to give Gremel an opportunity with one out and a runner on second.

"If anybody's going to get a hit, it's Katie," Bohn said. "She's been swinging the bat really well the last two weeks. I thought we'd give her a chance, and she came through."

This is Unionville-Sebewaing's eighth straight trip to Battle Creek. Holton, playing six sophomores regularly, had never won a Regional until this year.

"As many times as you've been here, it's still this team's first time," Bohn said. "It might be Chelsey Bitzer's fourth time, but it's still this team's first time. Until you actually get to that game, there's still a lot of pressure on these girls. There are a lot of expectations for this team. They've been here, they're expected to be here and they're expected to win state titles. That all adds up to a lot of pressure on 16-, 17-, 18-year-old girls."

Perhaps the pressure of the semifinals led to an uncharacteristic five errors by the Patriots (37-3) and three walks by Treiber.

Bitzer gave Unionville-Sebewaing a 2-0 lead with run-scoring singles in the first and third innings. The Patriots outscored their first five postseason opponents 59-0, but finally surrendered two runs in the fourth inning as Holton benefited from a walk, a hit batter and an error.

Holton (27-10), which finished third in its league, lost the game by surrendering two runs in the sixth, but had a postseason run that will always be remembered in a town that showed up in large numbers to support the softball team.

"It was unbelievable," sophomore Jackie Stone said. "There are no words to describe how proud everybody is. The whole town, everybody came. It brings us all together, because this doesn't happen very much in a small town. It was great; I appreciate it."

Dundee 11, Allen Park Cabrini 6

While the Patriots are expected to make the championship game every year, Dundee has come out of nowhere to play on the final day of the season.

The Vikings (44-1) had never won a Regional before this season. However, they never played a game with Shaunna Musial or Kayle Phillips in their lineup until this season.

Musial and Phillips are freshmen who made key contributions in an 11-6 victory over perennial power Allen Park Cabrini in the other Semifinal.

With the game tied 4-4 and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Phillips singled home Brittani Rojem with the go-ahead run. A two-run single by Khali Burd made it 7-4. Hannah Rachor and Haleigh Kimble had run-scoring singles to make it 9-4.

After Cabrini (29-6) scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, Musial put the game away with a two-run homer in the seventh.

Dundee built a 4-0 lead with a four-run third before Cabrini came back to tie the game, the key blow being a three-run homer in the third by Sydney Lankford.

Dundee coach Mickey Moody pulled starting pitcher Vanessa Ewing after 3 2/3 innings, but said she would get the start against Unionville-Sebewaing.

"She's going to be mad," Moody said. "I expect her to throw a nice game."

Rachor, who replaced Ewing in the circle, was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Haleigh Kimble was 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Click for full box scores.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Unionville-Sebewaing hitter connects during USA's Semifinal win over Holton on Friday. (Middle) Dundee pitcher Vanessa Ewing winds up during her team's Semifinal against Allen Park Cabrini. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.