Make it eight straight

Wildcats capture Big North Conference title, split with TC Central

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The Alpena High girls softball team celebrates after defeating Traverse City Central 9-3 in game one of a doubleheader at Alpena High School on Tuesday. The Wildcats earned their eighth consecutive Big North Conference championship with the opening game win.

The Big North Conference has gone through Alpena for nearly a decade.

On Tuesday, the Wildcats entered with an unblemished conference record and needed just one win over Traverse City Central who entered the day 7-1 in the conference to clinch another league title.

Alpena put together a huge rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, erasing a one run deficit by batting around the order to score seven runs on seven hits to win 9-3 in game one to secure its eighth consecutive championship.

Central won the nightcap 13-10.

“It came down to playing Traverse City Central at the end of the season, but it’s a goal that starts on March 15. Just the way the schedule fell, both teams were playing for a conference championship,” Alpena coach Paul Marwede said. “It’s a commitment from March to prepare, grow and not let a game slip away prior to what ended up being the showdown. Overall, its a commitment for four to five weeks, making sure you’re ready day in and day out and taking care of business.”

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Emma Fraser hits a bases clearing double in the bottom of the sixth inning in game one.

The opener appeared like it was going to be a shootout from the first pitch as the Trojans came out swinging in the top of the first. The top three batters in the order all reached on hard hit singles and an early run came across to score.

Jade Schultz started on the mound for Alpena and got out of an early jam, getting two of the final three outs via strikeouts.

The Wildcats quickly responded in the home half of the first as Emma Fraser led off with a single and stole second. Schultz reached on an error and Abbie Funk layed down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. Allie Funk and Emily Vivian hit back-to-back singles to drive in runs and give Alpena an early 2-1 lead.

Both Schultz and Trojan starting pitcher Olivia Fiebing settled in and the teams went scoreless through the next three innings.

Central tied the game in the fourth by rallying with two outs as McKenzie Hurley ripped a two out double and scored when Lily Briggs singled her home.

The Trojans regained the lead in the sixth as Fiebing drew a one out walk, advanced to third on a double from Aubrey Haddix and scored when Alexis Hamstra bounced into a fielder’s choice to give Central a 3-2 lead late.

Once again, the Wildcats responded and in a huge way as they batted around the order in the home half of the sixth. Alpena scored seven runs on seven hits in the inning to take a 9-3 lead. Maddy Saddler drove in the tying run with a pinch hit, one out single that plated Vivian who singled to lead off the inning.

The big blow in the inning came when Fraser laced a bases loaded double into the right center field gap that rolled all the way to the fence, scoring all three Wildcats.

Central got two baserunners on in the seventh, but the next three Trojans were retired as Schultz struck out Hanah Hull looking to end the game.

Schultz pitched the complete seven innings, picking up the win. She allowed three runs on six hits, walked one and struck out 12.

Offensively, Vivian was a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Fraser went 3-for-4 with three RBI, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Both Abbie and Allie Funk each collected two hits and scored a run apiece as the Wildcats clinched its eighth straight Big North title at home on Senior Night.

“It’s nice to win on Senior Night. To see it all culminate tonight with a Big North Championship at home on a night where we honored our three seniors, it was very special,” Marwede said.

With the conference wrapped up, Alpena had a chance to end conference play undefeated, but the Trojans came out on top in a wild nine inning nightcap and outlasted the Wildcats 13-10.

Alpena held a 5-2 lead after six innings, but the Trojans rallied to score five runs in the top of the seventh to take a one run lead. The Wildcats responded with a run of their own in the home half of the seventh, but left the winning run stranded on second base.

Both teams added a run in the eighth after going to the international tie break rule, beginning with the final out on second base. With the score tied 8-8 after eight innings, Central took advantage of a few Wildcat injuries as the home team left the field banged up.

The Trojans scored five more runs in the ninth and eventually held on for the win as Alpena scratched across two runs, but had the tying run retired in the batters box for the final out.

At the plate, Fraser led the Wildcats with a leadoff home run in the first and added another hit and RBI in the game. Vivian went 3-for-4 with three RBI. Abbie Funk was also 3-for-4 with a stolen base, a walk and three runs scored. Schultz added two hits, an RBI and scored a run. Tara Myers chipped in with a pinch hit RBI double and Riley Alexander added two hits and scored a run.

Alpena is 20-10 overall on the season and finishes 9-1 in conference play.

The Wildcats will travel to Bay City for a tournament on Saturday.


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