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Mercy rolls past Clarkston in quarterfinal, into first D-1 Semifinal since 2003

Softball   | Jeff Dullack

Mercy rolls past Clarkston in quarterfinal, into first D-1 Semifinal since 2003

Novi – Over the past three years, a regional title has been something that had eluded Farmington Hills Mercy.

But after winning a regional title on Saturday, the Marlins were out to prove they weren’t done yet when they played Clarkston in a Division 1 quarterfinal game played at Novi high school.

The Marlins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back, rolling to an 11-1 win in six innings over Clarkston and advancing to their first state semifinal since 2003.

Mercy now advances to the Division 1 semifinals where it will face Caledonia on Thursday at 3:00 pm at Michigan State University.

Mercy coach Alec Lesko said that throughout the playoffs leading up to Tuesday, Mercy had some slow starts to games, but said that a first inning miscue by Clarkston that helped lead to three first inning runs for his squad helped kick start the Marlins early on.

“In the playoffs, so far, we had been starting slow, so I was very pleased with that,” he said. “We caught a break, they (Clarkston) misplayed a shallow popup in the outfield and we caught a break on that. But sometimes you need a couple of breaks to get you going and we were fortunate to get that today.”

After Mercy took its 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI double from Jordan Johnson and a two-RBI double off the bat of Jordan Johnson, Mercy starting pitcher Andrea Elmore worked out of a bases loaded one-out jam in the first inning with back-to-back strikeouts to keep Clarkston off the scoreboard.

Clarkston would eventually break through in the bottom half of the third inning when Alex Favazza connected for an RBI single to cut the deficit down to 3-1.

But Mercy had an answer as the Marlins responded with three more runs in the top of the fourth behind an RBI walk by Abby Krzywiecki, a sacrifice fly by from Johnson and an RBI infield single from senior Molly Murphy to push the Mercy lead to 6-1.

Murphy said that with teams pitching around Mercy star senior Alex Sobczak and Krzywiecki, a junior, she and her teammates were happy to come up big hits of their own to keep the pressure on opposing pitching.

“We saw that at regionals,” she said. “People in the lower end of the lineup that came through and pinch-hitters and pinch-runners came through. It’s nice to see and I think it takes a lot of pressure off of those two and it’s comforting to know that anyone in the lineup can step up and come through.”

In the top of the fifth, the Marlins all but put the game out of reach when Sophie Van Acker connected for a two-RBI double and Johnson brought in another run after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, bringing the score to 9-0.

Sobczak, who scored three runs in the game and was intentionally walked throughout the game said that while she and Krzywiecki don’t like being intentionally walked, she does take enjoyment watching the players lower in the lineup make teams pay for walking them.

“It’s a great feeling when you’re on the base paths,” she said. “It’s not a great thing to be intentionally walked, it’s a nice gesture, but we’d both rather hit. But to see Sophie go out there and Jordan swing and drive us in, it makes them pitch to us and it’s a team effort.”

Van Acker would later tally an RBI single in the sixth and another run would score during a rundown to push the score to 11-1 and punch Mercy’s ticket to the Division 1 semifinals, something that Sobczak and her teammates have been waiting some time for and are hoping it’s a chance they can make the most of.

“It means so much,” Sobczak said of moving onto the semifinals. “At the beginning of the year, I knew this team had something special, we just all get along so well. What you see out there is what you get, we would do anything for each other and today, everyone brought snacks in for one another to get a little loose before games. 

“It means so much for us seniors to go to MSU for the first time and play our game and do it so well. We’re all hitting the ball and it takes the pressure off the individual aspect because everyone’s hitting and we have 14 other girls that have our back.”