ROGERS CITY-All season long the Rogers City softball team's rallying cry has been 'Why not us?'
On Tuesday, the rally cry changed from 'Why not us?' to 'Look what we did!'
In a battle of two Presque Isle County rivals for a Division 4 district title, it was Rogers City who trumped Onaway 4-3 to win its first district crown since 2004 and end a streak of five straight titles for the Cardinals.
News Photo by James Andersen
The Rogers City softball team poses with its Division 4 district trophy after the Hurons beat Onaway 4-3 in a district championship game Tuesday in Rogers City. The title is the Hurons’ first since 2004.
From the outset, it was clear that each and every out would prove vital to the outcome of the game and ultimately the game came down to a few mistakes and a few clutch plays.
Right off the bat, Onaway loaded the bases in the first inning after two walks and a hit by pitch, but Rogers City (34-5) escaped the jam on a pop-up to Hurons pitcher Melissa Pomranke.
"This is a thrill. I'm so proud of the girls. The girls just believed in each other and they believe in everything that we're doing," Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. "All I could hear when they were batting was, 'We believe! We believe!' It's just such a great great of kids."
With it's season on the line, Onaway didn't go down easy. With the Cardinals trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning, Rogers City got two quick outs before Emily Estep was hit by a pitch and later stole second base. The next batter, Brooke Szymoniak reached on an error from third base to first base that allowed Estep to score.
Pomranke then got Megan Estep to fly out to right field where Nikki LaLonde caught the final out, sending the Hurons running toward the mound in jubilation.
The Hurons broke open a scoreless game in the fourth inning after Logan Fleming led off with a single. After a sacrifice bunt from Courtney Streich, LaLonde singled to right field to score Fleming to put Rogers City ahead 1-0.
The win was perhaps a bit of vindication for the Hurons, who were beaten by Onaway in last year's district final and have watched the Cardinals take the district crown in each of the last five years.
"It was such a good ball game. Hats off to Onaway, they're a great team. I think this was two of the best teams battling it out in D-4 today," Grambau said. "Onaway is one of those teams (where) you're going to have to really earn it to beat them to the last out. They battled all the way and it was a good win for us."
Onaway got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning after Molly Cleaver ended a lengthy at-bat against Pomranke by drilling a payoff pitch over the left field fence to put the Cardinals ahead 2-1 after also driving in Megan Estep.
"Molly Cleaver has just destroyed us through the years. She's such a good hitter," Grambau said. "She gets that one pitch she can drive it and when she hits home runs they're not cheap home runs. She hits bombs."
The lead was short-lived however as Rogers City literally fought to the last out and the last pitch to score three times in the seventh inning with all three runs coming on an error. After a single by LaLonde, Onaway got two outs before Morgan Hall singled and Pomranke drew a walk.
With the bases loaded, Linnea Brege drew a full count and hit a pop-up between first and second base. The Cardinals couldn't make the play as all three base runners scored and put Rogers City ahead 4-2 on the infield error.
Pomranke fanned nine, walked three and allowed just two hits to the Cardinals to earn the win. Emily Estep struck out seven and allowed four hits and one walk.
LaLonde led Rogers City with two hits and Hall and Logan Fleming had one hit each. Cleaver and Temara Lupu had a hit each for Onaway.
The Hurons advance to regionals in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday where they will play Rudyard, who they swept last month to win the Straits Area Conference title.