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News Photo by James Anderson
Alpena’s Jenna VanDusen scores a run during the third inning of a regional semifinals game against Flint Kearsley on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University. VanDusen had two hits as Alpena defeated Kearsley 5-1 to advance to the regional final.
UNIVERSITY CENTER-Hannah Leppek did it again.
For the second straight season, Bay City Western's ace foiled the Alpena softball team as the Warriors topped the Wildcats 8-0 in a Division 1 regional final on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University.
One year after she threw a four-hit shutout against Alpena in the regional semifinal, Leppek was even better the second time around. She allowed one hit and two walks while fanning 12 batters.
The win marks the fourth regional title in five years for Western after it also defeated Ortonville-Brandon 8-1 in the semifinals. The Warriors advance to Tuesday's quarterfinal against Hudsonville at Central Michigan.
"They (Western) have great pitching and a good ball team surrounding great pitching. It's going to be a good team and they also have experience, to where least year they were in the state championship game, leading right into the final inning. You could just see that pouring from the kids," Alpena coach Paul Marwede said.
Logan Myers had Alpena's only hit in the seventh inning, earning a single in her final at-bat as a Wildcat.
Alpena (31-8) made contact against Leppek quite frequently, but most balls were hit right at defenders and Leppek's strikeouts took care of the rest.
Alpena drew two walks in the fifth inning and had runners on first and second with one out, but Leppek struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
Buoyed by a four-run second inning, the Warriors took control early and never looked back. Madison Brewer and Ashtyn Decatur hit consecutive two-run singles to give Western a 4-0 lead and the Warriors added runs in all but one subsequent inning.
Meredith Rousse scored on an error in the fourth inning and Blair Miller added a solo home run in the fifth inning to put Western up 6-0. In the sixth inning, Leppek and Kaylynn Carpenter hit back-to-back RBI singles to complete the scoring.
Lauren Heath pitched 6 2/3 innings for the Wildcats before Kara Gehrke came on in relief and recorded the final out.
In contrast to the final, Alpena had all the momentum in a 5-1 semifinal win over Flint Kearsley. In her first regional start, Heath pitched a solid game, allowing a run on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk. She also pitched out of several situations with two runners on base and the Hornets stranded 10 runners for the game.
Her teammates backed her up with five runs on eight hits and played their style of ball, while Kearsley was undone by some defensive miscues.
A couple of missed plays and some well-placed hits allowed Alpena to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Myers singled in Jenna VanDusen and Alexis Smith laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Alex Peters.
VanDusen scored on an error in the third inning and Mary Schimmel's two-run double in the sixth inning helped complete Alpena's scoring after Smith and Desiree Robertson had both singled.
VanDusen and Schimmel finished with two hits each.
Despite the loss in the final, Marwede was proud of his team's efforts this season. The Wildcats reached a regional final for the second time in three years and met two of their other goals: winning the Big North Conference title, their fourth in a row and winning a third straight district title.
"Our goal was to get back here and we play a tough schedule like we always try to do," Marwede said. "We accumulated 30 wins as went through it and being a younger team, I couldn't be more proud of them for believing and trusting and for working as hard as they did."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.