UNIVERSITY CENTER-For the second straight year, the Alpena softball team's season came to an end at regionals.
Hannah Leppek threw a four-hit shutout and Bay City Western defeated the Wildcats 3-0 in a Division 1 regional semifinal on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University.
The Warriors (35-2) later topped Grand Blanc 5-0 in the regional final to take home its fourth regional title in five seasons.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena first baseman Brenna Bourdage, left, waits on a pitch as Bay City Western’s Madison Brewer prepares to run during a Division 1 regional semifinal game on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University.
Leppek established control early for the Warriors, striking out six of the first nine batters she faced. It made for a long day at the plate for Alpena (21-11), which managed just four hits, none for extra bases and struck out 15 times.
It was a great game and I'm happy we played clean softball," Alpena coach Paul Marwede said. "I'm very proud of girls. We played a talented team."
Alpena had a chance to rally in each of the last two innings, but couldn't bring any runners home. In the sixth inning, Alpena loaded the bases with one out after Alex Peters walked and Brenna Bourdage and Jenna VanDusen both singled. Once again, the Warriors held Alpena off as Leppek got a strikeout and a groundout to end Alpena's turn at the plate and leave the bases full.
With one out in the seventh inning, Alpena got a pair of runners aboard after Kara Gehrke singled and Logan Myers reached on an error. Peters was the next batter up and reached on a fielder's choice while Western forced an out at second base. Leppek then struck out Bourdage to end the game.
Marwede praised his team, noting that Alpena's mix of veterans and young players improved a lot as the season went on.
"Every year our team works tremendously hard from the time we start softball until playoff season. Our team can always get stronger," Marwede said. "We had another year where we won two-thirds of our games. We grew from the beginning of the end and just because we lost, doesn't mean we weren't peaking at the right time."
Western took control early at the plate as well after its first two batters, Meredith Rousse and KayLynn Carpenter hit back-to-back doubles. After Rousse scored on Carpenter's hit, Leppek singled to score Carpenter, giving the Warriors a 2-0 lead.
Despite Western's fast start, Peters set the Warriors down easily for most of the game and didn't allow another hit until the fifth inning. Peters struck out four, walked three and allowed four hits.
"Alex showed good composure on the mound. She kept them in check and did a nice job of shutting them down and she had a good composure and demeanor as a sophomore," Marwede said. "She had good control on a big stage."
Rousse led Western with two hits.
The Warriors stranded a pair of runners in the fourth inning, but added an insurance run in their next trip to the plate. Rousse singled to lead off the inning, stole two bases and scored after a throwing error.
A single from Shannon Kapala in the second inning was the only offense Alpena could muster against Leppek in the early going. The Wildcats got runners on the corners with one out in the second inning, but Leppek held them at bay with two strikeouts to end the threat.
Gehrke, Van Dusen, Bourdage and Kapala each had a single for Alpena.
Saturday's game marked the end of the high school careers of Alpena's five seniors- Bourdage, Kapala, Caten Teff, Corinn Gehrke and Abby MacArthur. Marwede praised the group, which helped Alpena achieve a lot of success. The group was part of several Big North title teams and helped Alpena win back-to-back district titles.
"Our five seniors have the experience and you could tell they were calm, cool and collected in their approach to the game," Marwede said. "Our younger kids will learn a lot from them."