Late rally pushes Caledonia past Wildcats in quarterfinal

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena softball coach Paul Marwede, kneeling center, addresses his team after a Division 1 quarterfinal game against Calendonia on Tuesday at Central Michigan University. The Wildcats lost to the Fighting Scots 5-0.

MT. PLEASANT–The deeper a team advances in the postseason, the more important timely offense becomes.

Tuesday’s Division 1 softball quarterfinal between Alpena and Caledonia boiled down to just that: the Fighting Scots got the timely hits they needed and the Wildcats didn’t.

Abby Mitchell and Brooklynne Siewertsen each had a two-run single and Caledonia broke through late, scoring five runs to top the Wildcats 5-0 at Central Michigan’s University’s Margo Jonker Stadium.

The win advances the Fighting Scots to Friday’s semifinals in East Lansing where they will play Warren Regina.

Both teams had some early scoring chances, but it was ultimately the Fighting Scots who took control of the game in the later innings. Caledonia broke a lengthy stalemate with three runs in the fifth inning and added two more in the sixth.

Caledonia pitcher Sammie Gehrls limited the Wildcats to three hits, struck out nine and walked one.

” We played excellent down in regionals and we played very well here. This isn’t a 5-0 game. They had a couple seeing-eye hits toward the end. You go through five innings, it’s the first one to put up a run and they managed to do that and hats off to them,” Alpena coach Paul Marwede said. “They had the same goal as us at the beginning the year and they accomplished that today.”

The two teams combined to strand 10 base runners in the first four innings and had just seven hits between them. Alpena (28-13) turned a double play for two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth inning when Mitchell lined out to Alpena pitcher Jade Schultz and the Wildcats got a force out at third base.

With two outs, the Fighting Scots came alive. Taylor Cross singled to put runners on first and second and then Siewersen singled home Gehrls and Cross to put Caledonia on the board. Two batters later, Julia Becker singled to score Siewertsen.

In the sixth inning, Ashleigh VanZytvweld and Emmalee Hamp led off with singles and with one out, Mitchell singled to score them both, giving Caledonia a 5-0 lead.

Alpena managed just one hit in the final three innings and the Fighting Scots were aided by several impressive defensive plays. In the fifth inning, Gehrls made a diving grab on a pop-up to end Alpena’s turn at the plate and in the sixth inning, the Fighting Scots made a lunging grab at third base for another out.

Schultz, Emily Vivian and Riley Alexander each a single for the Wildcats.

Gehrls and Cross had three hits each for Caledonia and Becker and Mitchell had two hits each.

Alpena nearly had a run in the top of the first inning when Schultz hit a long fly ball down the third base line. The ball sailed just to the left for a foul ball and Schultz was later left aboard after reaching on a fielder’s choice.

In the third inning, Alexander led off with a single and stole second and third. Schultz later drew a walk and stole second to give Alpena to runners in scoring position, but Caledonia escaped the jam with a strikeout.

On defense, Alpena escaped several jams of its own in the first three innings. Caledonia got runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning, but Cross hit a liner back to Schultz to end the inning. The Fighting Scots loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning and Alpena escaped after a flyout to right field.

Caledonia threatened again in the third inning when Siewersen bunted runners to second and third with two outs, but Alpena ended the threat when Jadon Huyser grounded a ball back to Schultz.

Schultz took the loss for Alpena, allowing five runs on 12 hits with two walks.

“We just ended up with our kids meeting here after the game and (told) them how proud we are of them,” Marwede said. “Saying goodbye to three seniors (Vivian, Tara Myers and Mallory Kautz) who played excellent (and) played so hard. We talked about starting in March, going through now, nothing to be ashamed of, growth as teammates and the experience that they had, especially these last 10 days.

The last 12 days saw a lot of excitement for the Wildcats. On June 1, Alpena won its first district title since 2014 and last Saturday the Wildcats earned their sixth regional title in program history, claiming it after a thrilling nine-inning win.

Add in another Big North Conference title and another 20-plus win season and Marwede was proud of what the Wildcats accomplished this season.

“The goals have to be realistic and we always come out with (goals of) the Big North Championship and going very deep into the playoffs. We’ve come up short a few times, but we’ve done it a few times. That’s the goal of this team,” Marwede said. “It has to be in place through the season, through aches and pains, learning from mistakes and understanding that one little thing is going to make or break a game. You don’t know when exactly it’s going to happen, but it’s always one little thing that makes or breaks it and we have to be prepared so it doesn’t happen very often or you can make it happen (in your favor).”