Hurons are East Lansing bound

Rogers City defeats Rudyard 7-5 to advance to state semifinals

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The Rogers City softball team poses for a picture after defeating Rudyard in a quarterfinal game 7-5 at Petoskey High School on Tuesday. The No. 1 ranked Hurons advance to a Division 4 state semifinal game on Friday at 3:00 p.m. in East Lansing at Michigan State University where they will play No. 2 ranked Coleman.

PETOSKEY — For the second time in five years, the Rogers City softball team is heading back to East Lansing.

The Hurons (36-5) punched their ticket and earned a birth in the Division 4 state semifinals with a 7-5 victory over Rudyard on Tuesday at Petoskey High School.

“I’m really happy for our girls, really happy for our school, our community and now we’re going to represent all of northern Michigan and I’m just really happy to coach such a great group of kids,” Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. “We’re really charged up to get back to Lansing. We’ve wanted to go the last few years, but we came up short, but now we’re going back to Michigan State University. It’s a treat for the players, a treat for the fans and it’s just going to be a lot of fun going back there.”

Rogers City advances to a semifinal showdown against Coleman at 3 p.m. on Friday in East Lansing at Michigan State University.

The Hurons jumped out to a comfortable lead early as they scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Jayna Hance got Rogers City going by ripping a leadoff double into the left-center field gap. Kayla Rabeau and Hannah Fleming followed with back-to-back singles and Hance came across to score on the single from Fleming.

Taylor Fleming kept the rally going with an RBI double to score Rabeau. Amanda Wirgau laced a one-out single to score both Flemings and Alissa Bowden doubled home Wirgau with two outs.

The Hurons added one run each in the second and in the third as Hance tripled to lead off the inning and scored on another RBI double from Taylor Fleming.

Wirgau led off the third with a walk and scored on an RBI single from Kristin Brege for Rogers City’s final run.

The Hurons held a comfortable 7-0 lead heading to the fourth, but Rudyard did all they could to give the No. 1 team in Division 4 a game.

The Bulldogs responded with a four-run fourth inning and took advantage of a few defensive miscues from the Hurons.

Rudyard had plated four runs in the inning and were threatening to do more damage with two outs and runners at the corners. The Bulldogs’ number nine hitter, Paige Postma came to the plate with the tying run at first base and blooped a ball towards Rabeau at shortstop.

Rabeau, who made a diving grab to help the Hurons win a regional title, came up with another huge play and made an incredible over the shoulder grab to end the threat.

“When I saw the ball go up in the air I just knew I had to catch it. I wasn’t sure which way to turn my glove so I just turned around and made a basket catch,” Rabeau said. “I’m feeling so great right now. It’s my first year out of four years to finally be able to go to states for softball and I can’t believe it. I’m excited we get to play at MSU and I truly believe that we can win it all.”

Rudyard cut the Hurons’ lead to two after Morgan Bickel led off the sixth inning with a long home run to right field.

Despite giving up the home run, Rogers City starting pitcher Kyrsten Altman settled in and struck out two of the next three batters to get out of the inning.

The Hurons had a chance to get a few insurance runs when they loaded the bases with one out in the home half of the sixth. An interference call when Taylor Fleming collided with Bulldogs second baseman Jordan Spring on what would have likely been a base hit to right field and would have plated two runs.

Instead runners returned to their base and Rudyard pitcher Emilee Curtis escaped a bases-loaded jam.

“Our girls don’t get rattled and they stay within the moment. Hats off to Rudyard for battling back and we knew that we just had to make some plays,” Grambau said. “We didn’t hit as well as we were capable of in the later innings, but we knew we had to play defense and we’re confident that no matter where the ball is hit, somebody will make the play.”

Altman struck out the first batter to begin the seventh. Rudyard leadoff batter Bailey VanSloten flew out to right field and Spring popped out to Hance at second base and the celebration was on for Rogers City.

Altman tossed a complete game and earned the victory, allowing just one earned run on two hits while striking out 10.

Offensively, Rogers City was led by Taylor Fleming who double twice, drove in a pair of runs and scored once. Hance doubled and tripled and scored two runs. Rabeau added three hits, scored a run and stole a base and Hannah Fleming had a pair of hits, along with scoring and driving in a run.

The last time the Hurons advance made it as far as East Lansing, they won it all in 2014, but Rogers City will once again be tested by Coleman. The Comets spent much of the year as the top ranked team in Division 4 before the Hurons took over. Coleman defeated No. 7 Frankfort 1-0 on Tuesday.

“Every time you get to this point in the season every team you play is going to be good and anybody can win and we’re just happy to be going to Lansing,” Grambau said. “We’ll be ready to play and we’ll do our best to represent Rogers City and northern Michigan. It’s one game at a time, one play at a time and we’re looking forward to Friday.”