Hurons determined to get back to East Lansing

News File Photo Rogers City’s Hannah Fleming, Jayna Hance (13) and Kyrsten Altman (back) celebrate after Fleming hit a two-run home run in the third inning of a regional championship game against Inland Lakes on Saturday at Indian River.

Eight teams remain in the Division 4 softball state tournament.

Of those eight teams, Rogers City, is once again among the state’s elite in Class D.

For the third consecutive season, Rogers City will compete in a quarterfinal after winning an absolute thriller for the regional championship on Saturday.

The Hurons dethroned defending state champion Indian River Inland Lakes, a team who had ended Rogers City’s season each of the past three years.

With the Bulldogs out the way, Rogers City is now prepared for a new challenge as the Hurons will travel to Petoskey today to take on Rudyard (29-7) at 2 p.m.

“We’re happy to be here at this point in the season. We know we’re going to play a good team, we just have to stick with our motto, one pitch at a time and one at-bat at a time and continue playing Hurons softball,” Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. “Our team has just come together so well and no matter what the situation is, we always tell each other that we believe.”

The Hurons coasted to the regional championship game, setting a state record along the way before facing a familiar foe in Inland Lakes.

Rogers City continued to showcase its strength at the plate as Hannah Fleming and Kyrsten Altman both hit home runs in the championship game to give the Hurons a lead on two separate occasions.

Altman held the defending champs in check at the plate and was backed by solid defense especially on the last play of the game when Kayla Rabeau made a remarkable diving catch in foul territory down the third base line to end the game with Bulldogs left stranded at second and third.

“I knew that our team could pull it off. We all mesh together very well and it was just our time,” Altman said. “We just need to continue working hard like we’ve been doing. We need to continue giving everything we got and play with our hearts and good things will happen.”

After defeating one pack of Bulldogs, another team of Bulldogs stands in the way of Rogers City’s chances of getting back to the final four.

Rudyard earned two lopsided victories on its way to winning its first ever regional championship.

The Bulldogs seem to be playing their best at the right time as they come into today’s quarterfinal riding a six-game winning streak and mercying four of their last six opponents. Three of their four postseason games came by ten runs or more.

Rudyard will likely go with Emilee Curtis in the circle. Curtis pitched great in wins over Ironwood and Ispheming on Saturday, allowing just two runs and picking up two wins on the day.

At the plate, the Bulldogs pounded out 16 hits in their regional championship win. The Rudyard offense is led by Jordan Spring who had four hits and three RBI in the regional title game. Curtis also provides a steady bat at the plate along with Morgan Bickel, Cierra Molina and seniors Lane Clegg and Autumn Lemmerman.

Despite facing a Rudyard team that is coming in to today’s quarterfinal matchup hot, the Hurons can also heat up at any given moment.

Rogers City has the luxury of having two solid pitchers in Altman and Jayna Hance.

Offensively, the Hurons are stacked from top to bottom and any bat on the roster is capable of doing plenty of damage which makes the No. 1 ranked Hurons so dangerous.

Hance, Rabeau, Hannah Fleming, Taylor Fleming and Altman make up a scary top of the order. From there, it doesn’t get any easier for opposing teams as Amanda Wirgau, Jazmyn Saile, Alissa Bowden and Kristin Brege can all rake at the bottom of the lineup. Linnea Hentkowski, Jordyn Schalk, Brooke Daniels and Catheryn Hart all give Grambau plenty of options at any point in any game.

“It’s just a team that is coming together. We have different kids doing different things,” Grambau said. “Everyone has a role and everybody plays their role and I’m really happy for our team and I’m proud of these kids. We’re really looking forward to the challenge in the quarterfinal.”

Rogers City will be looking to win and advance past the the quarterfinal for the first time since 2014. The last time the Hurons won a quarterfinal game, they ended up winning it all, bringing home their first softball state championship in school history.

“It’s amazing and I just want to win states so bad. I’ve been waiting four years for it and I’m so happy we are still playing,” Rabeau said. “We just need to continue to keep our intensity up because I’ve never seen a team as intense as us. We have a very good team and we’re going to keep pushing and working hard to get to where we want to be.”

Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at jzawacki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690.