EAST LANSING-The bigger the stage, the brighter the Rogers City softball team seems to shine.
Now the Hurons are just one win away from a state championship.
Rogers City defeated Fowler 11-1 in five innings in the Division 4 semifinal on Friday at Michigan State's Secchia Stadium. The Hurons will play Kalamazoo Christian Division 4 in the championship game today at 5:30 p.m.
News Photos by James Anderson
TOP: Members of the Rogers City softball team celebrate after defeating Fowler in a Division 4 softball semifinal on Friday at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium. BOTTOM: Rogers City’s Courtney Streich beats out a throw to first base for a single during a Division 4 softball semifinal on Friday at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.
After powering their way to the semifinals, the Hurons (33-6) won this one much the way they have all season: wearing down the opposition's pitching, pounding the ball and making all the routine defensive plays.
"It feels so unreal. It's so amazing because we made it to this point last year and to finally get over that hurdle feels like the best feeling in the world," Rogers City senior center fielder Cassie Brege said.
The Hurons will be making their third appearance in the finals following runner-up finishes in 2001 and 2004.
Rogers City finished with 11 runs on 11 hits and four different Rogers City players had RBIs. Morgan Hall had three hits and three RBIs for the Hurons. Sarah Meredith had two hits and two RBIs and Brege had two hits and three RBIs.
Fowler tied the game 1-1 in the top of the third inning, but from there the game belonged to Rogers City. The Hurons scored five runs in the bottom of the third and then tacked on five more runs in the fourth inning to cement their spot in the finals.
"The girls played great today. I thought we really played good defense and then we started hitting," Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. "We got some bunts, ran the bases hard and it was a really good day for the Hurons today and a good day for Huron softball."
Rogers City broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the third inning after the Hurons sent 10 runners to the plate and scored five runs on five hits. After Logan Fleming and Courtney Streich got on base, Meredith singled them both home and Hall followed with an RBI single to put Rogers City ahead 4-1.
With two outs, Rachel Chojnacki walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run and Brege followed with an RBI single to drive in Hall.
Sydney Feldpausch took the loss for the Eagles, allowing 11 runs on nine hits and struck out four. Feldpausch struck out three in the first two innings, but once the Hurons got going there was no looking back.
The Hurons reached the semifinals last year, but their last two appearances have been marked by nerves that hindered their chances to win. If there any nerves this time around, they went away fast. Nikki Radke pitched another solid game for the Hurons, allowing one run on five hits and no strikeouts and the offense more than backed her up.
"I think being patient, waiting for our pitch and we had that rally in the second inning. I think that really got us going," Brege said. "I sensed a little bit of nerves, but everything seemed normal."
The Hurons kept up their offense in the fourth inning, scoring five more runs and batting around again. Streich, Meredith, Hall and Quaine hit consecutive singles to start the inning and Hall and Quaine had RBIs. Brege came up big again later in the inning with a two-run single.
Hall gave the Hurons a 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, singled to score Fleming. The Eagles answered in the top of the third inning after an RBI triple to right field by Kara Schafer.
With the offense running on all cylinders, Rogers City's defense rose to the occasion as well with several big plays. In the top of the fourth inning, Quaine made an over-the-shoulder catch for an out. In the fifth inning, the Hurons turned a 5 to 3 to 2 double play to end the game.
"We just take one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. I thought we made some outstanding plays defensively and that got everyone fired up. Hitting is contagious and the girls really focused today and we're looking forward to (today)," Grambau said.
Up next for the Hurons is a rematch of last year's semifinal against Kalamazoo Christian. The Comets topped the Hurons 2-0 last season on the way to winning the state championship. Kalamazoo defeated Vestaburg 6-1 in other semifinal earlier on Friday.
A rematch with the Comets is one the Hurons have been hoping for. Earlier this season, Rogers City defeated the Comets 8-4 at a tournament in Portage, but Grambau knows the stakes are different this time.
"We talked to their coaches when they got here. They wanted to play us and we wanted to play them," Grambau said. "We had a great game last year with them and we beat them earlier this year, but we're 0-0 going into the final."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.