BATTLE CREEK- The Rogers City softball team played well on Friday against Kalamazoo Christian Comets (32-7) in their division four semifinal match-up, but consistent pitching by Stephanie VanderLugt and a few rare kinks in Rogers City's defense cost the Hurons their shot at a state championship with a 2-0 loss.
"Out bats weren't hot like they usually are. The pitcher was good, I'll give her that, and she pitched a good game. It really came down to two little errors that cost us the game. If we'd have stayed tied 0-0 and went extra innings, things would have turned out differently," Rogers City senior Brooklyn Idalski said.
The Comets' first run came in the bottom of the fourth inning off a Kara Gjeltema home run. Nikki Radke started the game for Rogers City (33-7) and it was only the fourth hit she gave up in the game.
She struck out one batter and gave up three singles.
Idalski closed the game, pitching the fifth and sixth innings. She gave up two hits including a double by Carly VanderLugt, who was later driven in off a bad throw to first.
Both pitchers gave up a combined six hits for the Hurons.
"I couldn't have asked for more this season. Our goal for the last four years has been to make it to the Creek and to make it here in my last year, as a senior, is really special."
- Rogers City senior Brooklyn
The rest of the game was a battle of wills against Stephanie VanderLugt and the Huron batters. Normally strong batters like Logan Fleming, Morgan Hall, Idalski and Courtney Streich were shut out, either popping up or striking out.
VanderLugt struck out nine batters, including two three-strikeout innings and she gave up only two hits and one walk. Alexa Quaine got on first off a Hannah Rozeveld error but was left stranded.
The Hurons started the game aggressively at the plate as each of the first four batters hit at Stephanie VanderLugt's first offering. Nikkie LaLonde picked up Rogers City's first hit, but was left on base.
"You want to wait for the good pitch and in the first inning we came out swinging at the first pitch, each of which looked like a good pitch. Once she (Stephanie VanderLugt) settled down, she kept getting ahead in the count and we couldn't catch up," Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said.
Sarah Meredith hit the Hurons' other single with one out in the top of the seventh inning. Rebecca Meredith followed with a walk and one of Rogers City's trademark rally innings seemed imminent.
Unfortunately, the next two hitters hit fly balls that were easily fielded by first baseman Carly VanderLugt and second baseman Rozeveld to seal the win for the Comets.
Rogers City is losing four seniors this year- Idalski, LaLonde, Rebecca Meredith and Brenna Hincka- and Grambau praised the quartet for their contributions to the program.
"Brenna played a bit of infield and outfield for us when we needed her and Nikkie (LaLonde) has been a four year starter in right field. Brooklyn has been an outstanding pitcher, center fielder and hitter for us and Rebecca has been a big hitter and a great source of enthusiasm and support year after year," Grambau said.
In spite of the loss, Idalski was positive.
"I couldn't have asked for more this season. Our goal for the last four years has been to make it to the Creek and to make it here in my last year, as a senior, is really special," she said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.