In Play with Tom Markowski

Quarterfinal picks: Caledonia wins first regional title, seeks to reach state semifinals with victory on Tuesday

Softball   | Tom Markowski

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Caledonia – The temptation after a team wins the school’s first regional title is for the players to kick back and admire their accomplishment.

Caledonia coach Tom Kaechele is going to do everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Caledonia (32-4) will play Midland (24-11) in a Division 1 quarterfinal on Tuesday at Central Michigan at 4 p.m.

To get there Caledonia had to defeat its nemesis, Hudsonville, which is one of the state’s top program coached by one of the state’s top coaches, Tom Vruggink (SP). Hudsonville led 1-0 before McKenzie Butgereit belted a 3-run home run in the third inning. Caledonia defeated Hudsonville 5-3 but not before Taylor VanZytveld came in relief of freshman Sammie Gehrls and pitched the final two innings.

Last season Hudsonville defeated Caledonia 1-0 in a regional final.

“(Gehrls) got a little fatigue,” Kaechele said. “She’d given up a run in the sixth and they had a runner on. I have a lot of confidence in both pitchers.”

Gehrls beat the host team, Rockford, 3-2 in the regional semifinal.

Gehrls is a special player. She plays center field when not pitching and she leads the team in hitting (.583) and has 14 of her teams 47 home runs.

“We’ve hit the ball so well all year,” Kaechele said. “The girls had beaten Hudsonville twice (2-1, 6-5) during the year so they knew they could play with them.

“But I told them we’ve done something no other Caledonia team has done. Let’s keep it going. I’m a big Mark Dantonio fan. I’m a big Michigan State fan, too, but he has a saying that I used when I spoke with my team. Before they won the Rose Bowl Dan