Vicksburg Sends Finals Rematch to Extra Inning, but Gaylord Locks Down Repeat

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING – Gaylord junior pitcher Aubrey Jones was given a second opportunity to close out Saturday’s Division 2 championship game and help her team repeat.

She had her older sister Jayden Jones to thank for it.

Jayden helped bring home the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning to give Gaylord a dramatic 3-2 win over Vicksburg at Secchia Stadium.

Vicksburg had evened the score in the bottom of the seventh inning, extending the game. But after Gaylord retook the lead, Aubrey Jones retook the pitching circle and shut the door with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth.

“It was definitely stressful because  the whole postseason we hadn't been this close with a team,” Aubrey Jones said. “I was a little upset with myself because I let a pitch hang (in the seventh), but I’m super proud of my sister because we wouldn’t have scored that run without her, and I’m proud of her for being in that pressure situation and coming through for our team.

The Blue Devils begin their celebration.“This is super special for us because we’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old and the goal was to go out on top one more time, and we accomplished our goal.”

It was a rematch of last year’s Division 2 Final, but this ending was much different as Vicksburg rallied to tie it in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“The heart rate was up a little bit, but we couldn't show too much emotion because we didn't want the girls to feel that,” Gaylord coach Ron Moeggenberg said. “We talked to them before the playoff run started that at some point in this tournament we are going to have a close game and that was today, and they came through when they needed to.”

Down to their last strike in the seventh inning, Vicksburg delivered a stunning comeback.

Back-to-back singles with two outs by Maddison Diekman and Emily Zemitans and a Gaylord error evened the score at 2-2 and sent the game to extra innings.

“It hurts,” Bulldogs coach Paul Gephart said. “Very proud of the girls because they never give up and they fought to the end. Two strikes, two outs, and they still put it into that extra inning. 

“They will get past the hurt and have a special memory. First class at our school to do that back-to-back, so I’m very proud of them.

In the top of the eighth inning, Alexis Shepherd singled with one out and then Jayden Jones knocked a single to right field. Shepherd raced home on a throwing error at third base, and the Blue Devils retook the lead.

Aubrey Jones then got a pair of flyouts with a strikeout in between to end the game. She finished with five strikeouts and allowed just one walk over eight innings.

Vicksburg’s Peyton Smith and Maddison Diekman (10) enjoy a moment in the field.“This team has overcome a lot, and I’ve had to overcome a lot,” Jayden Jones said. “I was out last year (with a broken wrist), so being in this moment one more time with my team meant a lot to me. I had an opportunity to come through for my team and get the job done, and I was able to do that.”

The sisters combined for five of Gaylord’s 10 hits.

“They’ve come up big for us for the last four years, and we are going to miss Jayden,” Moeggenberg said. “It was special for us to do this again, and we knew that Vicksburg was going to be ready for us. Their pitcher was great today.”

Gaylord (38-4) took an early 2-0 lead with runs in each of the first two innings before Vicksburg trimmed the deficit in the bottom of the second with an RBI double from Ella Luegge.

Vicksburg senior pitcher Delaney Monroe was stellar again as she struck out six and didn’t allow a walk.

“She was keeping them off balance with her change-up, and she’s been so strong physically and mentally,” Gephart said. “She’s done a great job, and we couldn’t ask for anything more. That’s the No. 1 team in the state all year, and we were right there with them.”

Brooklynn Ringler and Audrie Dugan had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs (37-8).

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Gaylord’s Alexis Shepherd sprints toward second base; she scored the game-winning run in Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Blue Devils begin their celebration. (Below) Vicksburg’s Peyton Smith and Maddison Diekman (10) enjoy a moment in the field.