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Hillman softball team wins first regional title since 2015

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the Hillman softball team embrace after the final out of Saturday's regional final in Indian River. Hillman defeated St. Ignace to win a regional championship.

INDIAN RIVER — The wait was well worth it for the Hillman softball team.

At the end of a marathon day — one that saw them wait nearly five hours between games — the Tigers were the last team standing in a Division 4 regional.

Hillman opened the day with a five-inning 11-1 win over Central Lake and then toppled St. Ignace 7-4 in the regional final to win its first regional title since 2015.

The win advances Hillman to a Tuesday quarterfinal at 2 p.m. in Rudyard against Rudyard.

“It’s amazing. Oh my God, I can’t even describe it. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime chance that just comes along,” Hillman freshman pitcher Nicole Barbeau said of the win.

News Photo by James Andersen Hillman’s Cassidy Benac slides into score during the regional final against St. Ignace. Benac scored three runs in the win.

The Tigers wrapped up their semifinal win around 11:15 Saturday morning, but were left to wait and wait some more before they played again.

An accident on the Mackinac Bridge delayed the arrival of St. Ignace’s coaches for the Saints’ semifinal matchup with Rogers City and the Saints then took 10 innings to beat the Hurons 6-5.

All of that pushed the regional final back to around a 4 p.m. start time.

That didn’t matter much as the Tigers locked in against a determined, but tired St. Ignace team. Hilman batted around in the first inning and scored three runs. Jessica Jones drove in two with a single and Melanie Morrison scored after an infield error.

“When the big delay came, not gonna lie, we were a bit worried about the long time off the field, but luckily the girls, they’re resilient and we came right back,” Hillman coach Ken Rundell said.

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the Hillman softball team are pictured with a Division 4 regional championship on Saturday after defeating St. Ignace 7-4 in the regional final. Hillman’s win earned the Tigers their first regional championship since 2015.

The Tigers added two in the second inning on a two-run single from Brooke Bennett.

Hillman tacked on a run in the fourth inning as Cassidy Benac scored on a groundout by Jones and Bennett drove in Morrison with a double in the sixth inning for Hillman’s final run.

“The girls did a great job seeing the ball today and Nicole put us in a position where we just had to give her a little run support,” Rundell said. “She did her job, the team did their job and it worked out great today.”

Barbeau locked in in the circle for Hillman, allowing one run on four hits through six innings.

The Saints attempted to rally, scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning to make it 7-4. With the tying run on deck, Addison Cheesman grounded out to end the game.

Barbeau finished with six strikeouts, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits.

Bennett was 2-for-4 to lead Hillman at the plate and Jones had a hit and three RBI.

Rogers City’s quest for a fifth straight regional championship ended when Cheeseman singled to score Morgan Ordle in the 10th inning of the second semifinal.

The Hurons led 5-2 after 6 ½ innings, but St. Ignace rallied for three runs to tie the game 5-5 after seven.

Rogers City got runners on second and third in the eighth inning, but left them stranded.

Jeffra Dittmar had two hits and an RBI for Rogers City and Madeline Hardies had two hits and two RBI.

In the opening game, Hillman turned a tight 2-1 game into a rout, exploding for eight runs in the fourth inning — all with two outs.

Five different players had extra-base RBI hits for Hillman during the fourth and Julia Taratuta capped things off with a two-run double.

Saige Flaugher ended the game in the bottom of the fifth after scoring Autumn Kazayaka with an RBI triple.

Barbeau surrendered a first-inning home run to Angel Shaw, but locked in after that, finishing with seven strikeouts and allowing just three hits.

The winner of Tuesday’s quarterfinal will play either Holton or Portland St. Patrick in a semifinal on Friday at Michigan State University.

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