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Hurons seize opportunity

Rogers City defeats Rudyard to return to semifinals

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City’s Kyrsten Altman embraces teammates Taylor Fleming (20), Jeffra Dittmar (15) and Catheryn Hart after the Hurons defeated Rudyard 2-1 in a Division 4 quarterfinal on Tuesday at Petoskey High School.

PETOSKEY–Throughout the postseason, different members of the Rogers City softball team have made big plays at key times to keep the Hurons’ season alive.

On Tuesday, it was Karissa Rabeau’s turn.

The sophomore outfielder lined a two-run double up the middle in the top of the sixth inning, providing just enough offense for the Hurons to defeat Rudyard 2-1 in a Division 4 quarterfinal at Petoskey High School.

The win sends the Hurons (27-8) back to the semifinals for the second straight season and fourth time since 2013. Rogers City will play Unionville-Sebewaing in the second of two D-4 semifinals on Friday at 12:30 p.m. at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

Unlike last year’s quarterfinal matchup between the two teams, this one was much closer from the outset and both teams cashed in on a small window of opportunity.

News Photo by James Andersen Catheryn Hart tags out Rudyard runner Desta MacDowell at third base for the game’s final out as Taylor Fleming looks on.

Unfortunately for Rudyard, Rogers City’s window came later in the game and was just a little bigger.

“It was a great ball game, two teams battling it out. We played them earlier this year, we split the doubleheader, so it came down to a one-run game today,” Rogers City coach Karl Grambau said. “It was just a great game; high school kids doing their best for their community and for their school and I think both teams played their hearts out.”

Rudyard got a quick out in the top of the sixth inning, but made a critical error that opened the door for the Hurons. Alissa Bowden hit a routine grounder to short, but the throw to first base was low and Bowden reached base on an error. She was bunted to second by Kyley LaFleche, allowing Rudyard to record a second out.

That brought Brooke Saile to the plate and Saile drew a walk. On ball four, the ball got past Rudyard’s catcher, allowing Bowden to take third base.

Then, with runners on the corners, Rabeau lined a double up the middle, scoring Bowden and pinch runner Linnea Hentkowski.

News Photo by James Andersen Rudyard runner Desta MacDowell gets emotional as the Rogers City softball team celebrates behind her following a Division 4 quarterfinal at Petoskey High School on Tuesday. MacDowell was tagged out at third base in a rundown to end the game.

Her heroics earned her the game ball from Grambau after the win.

“Well, I haven’t been hitting good this whole season and I’ve been getting help (to improve). I fouled a lot of balls off and I started freaking out a little bit,” Rabeau said. “Then I got that good pitch, I swung and got the hit and I was freaking out. Everyone was cheering…it was exciting.”

The Bulldogs broke a scoreless stalemate in the bottom of the fourth inning after Paige Postma doubled to score Cierra Molina, who led off with a bunt single for Rudyard’s first hit.

Apart from that, the Bulldogs could get little to nothing past Rogers City starter Kyrsten Altman and Rogers City’s defense.

Rudyard’s only other hit came in the bottom of the seventh when Desta MacDowell singled with two outs in rally attempt.

News Photo by James Andersen Rudyard leadoff hitter Cierra Molina cheers after scoring a run during a Division 4 quarterfinal against Rogers City on Tuesday. Molina scored on an RBI double from Paige Postma in the fourth inning; the only time the Bulldogs scored in a 2-1 loss.

MacDowell advanced to second on a passed ball and just got underneath a tag to steal third base. Rogers City finally got MacDowell however, catching her in a rundown and tagged her out at third base to end the game.

“I was kind of surprised. The girl got a little bit too far off third and give (catcher) Amanda Wirgau credit for seeing that and then getting the ball to (third baseman) Catheryn (Hart) to get the out,” Grambau said. “Those are things that happen. Everybody’s pumped up, everybody’s trying to make something happen and it just worked out for us defensively.”

Altman earned the win after another stellar postseason performance, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

Emillee Curtis took the loss for Rudyard, allowing two runs on seven hits with four walks and two walks.

Rogers City put runners on base in each inning, but the Bulldogs came through with several defensive stands early in the game.

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City runner Alissa Bowden is tagged out at third base by Rudyard’s Chesney Molina during the fourth inning. Bowden was trying to take two bases on a bunt single from Kyley LaFleche.

One of them came in the top of the third inning, tagging out Bowden as she tried to take two bases on a bunt.

The Bulldogs came up even bigger in the the fifth inning. Rabeau singled to lead off the Hurons’ turn at the plate and Altman bunted her to second base. Rudyard coach Kurt Kwiatkowski opted to intentionally walk Taylor Fleming, putting two runners on. The Bulldogs’ defense bucked down and got a popup for the second out and ended the inning on a force out at second after a sharp liner to shortstop.

But the Bulldogs’ inability to put runners on base ultimately came back to hurt them and Rogers City found a big enough opening to get the runs it needed.

Rabeau led Rogers City with two hits, Fleming and Saile each had a double and Altman, Wirgau and LaFleche each singled.

The winner of Friday’s game will play either Coleman or Kalamazoo Christian in Saturday’s final.

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City runner Linnea Hentkowski (10) is greeted by teammates Alissa Bowden (16) and Kyrsten Altman after scoring on a two-run double by Karissa Rabeau in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s quarterfinal vs. Rudyard. Hentkowski represented the game-winning run.