The sweetest feeling
Cardinals hold off Inland Lakes to end district title drought
GAYLORD–Eight years of waiting is over for the Onaway softball team.
Calley Selke hit a game-tying three-run home run, pitched a gem in relief and Taylor Larson delivered a game-winning, two-run single with two outs in the sixth inning to help the Cardinals knock off Indian River Inland Lakes 7-6 in a Division 4 district final on Friday at St. Mary High School in Gaylord.
Pitching in relief of Onaway starter Kennedy Crawford, Selke shut down the Bulldogs over the game’s final 5 1/3 innings. She allowed a run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
She struck out Shaylee Michael to end the game, helping to secure Onaway’s first district title since 2011.
Ending the drought was sweet for Selke and Onaway’s other seniors, but getting a little bit of revenge over the Bulldogs made Friday’s win a little bit sweeter. The Bulldogs defeated Onaway 7-3 in last season’s district final and both teams split a doubleheader just last week to share the Ski Valley Conference title.
“It’s just sweet. This is our first district title in softball since (2011) and it’s just crazy,” Selke said. “We’ve been coming at it since my freshman year, wanting this every year for it to be my senior year winning the district trophy is just unbelievable.”
Big hits from Selke and Larson and timely plays on both sides of the ball helped Onaway (27-6) end an eight-year district title drought that’s been agonizing at times. In that span, Onaway has three district final losses and two one-run losses in the district semifinals.
“This senior class, they’ve been through so much and we’ve lost on errors (before). The girls dug deep today,” Onaway coach Jodi Brewbaker said. “It’s still sinking in. My emotions are all over the place right now.”
After some early offense, Onaway was held in check during the middle innings before Brewbaker and Onaway’s assistant coaches delivered a simple message: score some runs now.
The Cardinals got the message and showed patience at the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning to seize control of the game.
Jillian Chaskey, Onaway’s No. 9 hitter, led off with a walk and was thrown out at second when Crawford hit into a fielder’s choice. Taylor Larson drew a walk to put runners on first and second and Kayla Metty followed with another fielder’s choice, leaving two runners on with two outs.
That brought Selke to the plate and she deposited an offering over the left field fence to tie the game 5-5.
“Once I hit that, I just knew we had it. We all had the confidence after that,” Selke said. “That gave us that little thing right after that that made everyone else start hitting the ball, letting the balls go by if it wasn’t strikes and no one was swinging at the bad stuff.”
Onaway held Inland Lakes in check in the top of the sixth and executed brilliantly in the bottom of the inning to score the winning run.
Jordan Larson was hit by a pitch to start Onaway’s turn at the plate and pinch hitter Jackie Sellke laid a bunt down to move her to second. Chaskey followed with a grounder that moved Larson to third with two outs. With the go-ahead run on third, the Bulldogs opted to intentionally walk Crawford, bringing up Taylor Larson.
The freshman came through with her second hit of the game, lining a single just inside the first base line to score Jordan Larson and Crawford.
Inland Lakes refused to go down without a fight and cut the lead to 7-6 in the top of the seventh inning on a home run from Kelsey Van Daele. Onaway’s defense held tight and got the final two outs, ending the game when Selke struck out Michael.
“It’s just crazy. It’s unbelievable. We came into this game with a lot of confidence and positivity,” Selke said. “Once we were down, we didn’t stop cheering. That’s how we stayed up. Once we started cheering, (we) finally just executed.”
Inland Lakes found some offense early and for awhile it looked like it might be enough to hold off the Cardinals.
The Bulldogs scored two runs in the first inning on a two-out, two-run double from Amber Passino and added three more in the second inning. One run scored on a sac bunt and the others came after a two-out, two-run single from Gracey Henckel.
Onaway scored two runs in the first inning after a solo home run from Crawford and after Taylor Larson scored on a passed ball.
Over the next three innings however, Onaway was held to just one hit.
Selke finished the game with two hits, three RBI and a run scored for Onaway; Taylor Larson had two hits, two RBI and two runs scored and Crawford had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.
Gracey Henckel took the loss for the Bulldogs, allowing seven runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and five walks.
In the district finals, Onaway defeated Wolverine 18-0 and Inland Lakes defeated Gaylord St. Mary 6-1.
Friday’s win moves Onaway to a regional semifinal next Saturday against the winner of a D-4 district in Ellsworth.