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Eaton Rapids' Grace Lehto falls two outs shy of tossing perfect game vs. tough Millington offense at MI Stars Tournament

Eaton Rapids' Grace Lehto falls two outs shy of tossing perfect game vs. tough Millington offense at MI Stars Tournament
BY: MATTHEW B. MOWERY May 6, 12:00am

GRAND BLANC — If she had her druthers, Grace Lehto wouldn’t even be up as early as she was forced to be Sunday, to take the circle at 8 a.m. for the marquee matchup of the weather-shortened MI Stars Tournament.

Yet, you could never tell the Eaton Rapids junior pitcher wasn’t a morning person, by the way she was cruising through the lineup of a powerful Millington offense. 

Lehto retired the first 19 Cardinals batters she faced, carrying a perfect game one out into the bottom of the seventh, and a no-hitter two batters further, striking out 14 as the Greyhounds got a statement win by beating Millington, 2-1.

Was she even dialed in to what was happening?

Did she know she was two outs from a perfect game?

“I know … I know. … Usually they’ll tell me by the seventh inning — which is probably a jinx,” Lehto said. “I don’t really pay attention. I didn’t even know what inning it was, until the seventh.”

In that seventh inning, Lehto got Dorrien Rogers to ground out on a slow roller to second, but Leah Denome battled her way to a one-out walk, breaking up the perfect game. Lehto struck out her opposing pitcher — Gabbie Sherman, who tossed a perfect game earlier the season — on a checked swing, putting her one out from a no-hitter.

Lehto had tossed those before in her Greyhound career, but never a perfecto.

"Maybe in travel, but not in high school,” she said. 

Denome stole second during Sherman’s at-bat, then scored from there when Sydney Bishop singled to break up the no-hit bid, ending the shutout in the process, as well. Hannah Rabideau singled to the left side of the infield to put the potential game-winning run on base, 60 feet behind the potential tying run, but Lehto struck out Madi Hahn to end the game. 

“Once I get into my groove, I just try to go fast, until it ends,” Lehto said. “My movement was on today — my speed was kind of down today, I’m kind of tired, but my movement was working pretty well.”

Back-to-back doubles by Shelby Warner and Kendi Richardson in the second inning set up the game’s first score, as Emily Cline made it 1-0 with a bloop RBI single. Lehto singled with one out in the third, then courtesy runner Maggie Etue stole second and scored on a bloop single by Warner, making it 2-0.

That seemed to be plenty the way Lehto was rolling, but ended up being just enough. 

In lieu of a championship game — with Saturday’s play canceled by the poor field conditions at Grand Blanc’s Creasey Bicentennial Park, pushing pool play back a day and erasing the bracket play portion of the tournament — that opening matchup for the day was undoubtedly the most attention-grabbing. 

Millington lost in last year’s Division 3 championship game, while Eaton Rapids gave eventual D2 champion Escanaba all it could handle in a 2-0 loss in the semifinals. Nobody would be shocked if both teams wound up on the same stage next month, since both teams brought back a ton of talent.

“Last year, we kind of ended at our best, which is really good. And then this year, it was kind of like ‘How do we beat that, because we went so far?’ We’d never done that before. So, this year, we were a little nervous starting off, but with our first game, we started right where we’d left off. I don’t see a decline — I just see us getting better and better — so I see us going back to states for sure. It’ll be tough, but we’re a strong team, and we’ve got a lot of chemistry,” Lehto said, noting that first game against DeWitt was when she could first sense it. “We made a few errors in one of our innings, and right away we were on it. We looked like we were on a mission. We got mad.”

The Greyhounds (15-0) went 3-0 in pool play Sunday, beating Utica Ford (14-6) and Brighton (8-5), the latter in which Lehto threw four innings of one-hit ball in relief. 

Millington won both of its remaining pool play games, beating Utica Ford (14-0) and Brighton (8-0), giving up just two runs on the day. With Saturday’s official play wiped out by the field conditions, the Cardinals hosted Division 1 opponents Clarkston and Traverse City West, beating West 17-1, but losing 6-5 to the Wolves. 

In Pool A, the tournament host Clarkston Wolves went 3-0, allowing just four runs in time-limit shortened games against Grosse Pointe North (9-1), Milford (14-3) and Birmingham Seaholm (10-0). 

On the day, Abbey Tolmie 5-for-7, 2-2Bs, six runs, five RBI, while Hannah Cady went 4-for-7, three runs and six RBI. Sierra Kersten went 4-for-7 with five runs, eight RBI , while Nyah Ansel went 3-for-3 with four RBI in the win over Milford. 

In Pool B, Carleton-Airport, Romeo and Lakeland all went 2-1, with the Jets posting the best run-differential (plus 13). Waterford Kettering (Pool E) and Garden City (Pool G) also went 3-0 on the day to win their pool championships.

The most nail-biting of the pools, however, may have been in Pool D, where L’Anse Creuse scored late to beat Allen Park, 4-3. The Lancers broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth on Sydney Simon’s RBI single, knocking off the previously unbeaten Jaguars.  

Earlier in the afternoon, L’Anse Creuse (16-1) dropped its own first game of the season, when Melanie Cosens of South Lyon East (9-5) tossed a three-hit shutout. Olivia Sabin got the Cougars on the board in the first with a two-run triple, scoring herself on a single by Allyssa Hollo. East made it 3-0 in the second on Sabin’s infield single, then 5-0 after scoring a pair of runs on wild pitches in the third. Hollo followed Emma Loveland’s triple with an RBI double in the fourth, then scored on an error to make it 8-0.

The rest of the available results from the tournament are below:

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MICHIGAN STARS TOURNAMENT

(at Creasey Bicentennial Park, Grand Blanc)

Sunday, May 5

NOTE: Due to field conditions, Saturday’s pool play was moved back to Sunday, and the bracket segment of the tournament was eliminated.

Pool champions: A-Clarkston (3-0), B-Carleton-Airport (2-1), D-Allen Park (2-1), E-Waterford Kettering (3-0), F-Eaton Rapids (3-0), G-Garden City (3-0).

POOL A

Clarkston (2-0) — beat Grosse Pointe North 9-1, beat Milford 14-3, beat Birmingham Seaholm 10-0. (RUNS FOR: 33, RUNS AGAINST: 4)

Milford (2-1) — lost to Clarkston 14-3, beat Grosse Pointe North 4-2, beat Birmingham Seaholm 13-4. (RUNS FOR: 20, RUNS AGAINST: 20).

Birmingham Seaholm (0-3) — lost to Grosse Pointe North 9-3, lost to Clarkston ???, lost to Milford 13-4. (RUNS FOR:, RUNS AGAINST:).

Grosse Pointe North (1-2) — beat Birmingham Seaholm 9-3, lost to Milford 4-2, lost to Clarkston 9-1. (RUNS FOR: 12, RUNS AGAINST: 18)

POOL B

Carleton-Airport (2-1) — beat West Bloomfield 11-6, beat Lakeland 10-2, lost to Romeo 4-0. RUNS FOR: 21, RUNS AGAINST: 8)

Romeo (2-1) — beat West Bloomfield 11-2, lost to Lakeland 11-5, beat Airport 4-0. (RUNS FOR: 20, RUNS AGAINST: 13)

Lakeland  (2-1)— beat West Bloomfield 6-0, lost to Airport 10-2, beat Romeo 11-5. (RUNS FOR: 19, RUNS AGAINST 15)

West Bloomfield (0-3) — lost to Carleton-Airport 11-6, lost to Lakeland 6-0, lost to Romeo 11-2. (RUNS FOR: 8, RUNS AGAINST: 28)

POOL C

Algonac (1-1) — beat Detroit Renaissance 13-2, lost to Michigan Alliance 7-2, vs. Ortonville Brandon, inc.

Ortonville Brandon (1-0) — beat Detroit Renaissance 12-1, vs. Algonac inc., vs. Michigan Alliance, inc.

Detroit Renaissance (0-3) — lost to Algonac 13-2, lost to Ortonville Brandon 12-1, lost to Michigan Alliance 8-0. (RUNS FOR: 3, RUNS AGAINST: 33)

Michigan Alliance (2-0) — beat Algonac 7-2, beat Detroit Renaissance 8-0, vs. Ortonville Brandon, inc.

POOL D

Allen Park (2-1) — beat South Lyon East 10-2, beat Birmingham Groves 9-0, lost to L’Anse Creuse 4-3. (RUNS FOR: 22, RUNS AGAINST: 6)

South Lyon East (2-1) — beat L’Anse Creuse 8-0, lost to Allen Park 10-2, beat Birmingham Groves 12-5. (RUNS FOR: 25, RUNS AGAINST: 15)

L’Anse Creuse (2-1) — beat Allen Park 4-3, lost to South Lyon East 8-0, beat Birmingham Groves 13-6 (RUNS FOR: 17, RUNS AGAINST: 17)

Birmingham Groves (0-3) — lost to Allen Park 9-0, lost to L’Anse Creuse 13-6, lost to South Lyon East 12-5. (RUNS FOR: 11, RUNS AGAINST: 34)

POOL E

Waterford Kettering (3-0) — beat Port Huron Northern 11-0, beat Pinconning 7-3, beat Almont 16-6. (RUNS FOR: 34, RUNS AGAINST: 9)

Port Huron Northern (2-1) — lost to Waterford Kettering 11-0, beat Pinconning 14-4, beat Almont 14-3. (RUNS FOR: 28, RUNS AGAINST: 18)

Almont (1-2) — beat Pinconning 6-3, lost to Waterford Kettering 16-6, lost to Port Huron Northern 14-3. (RUNS FOR: 15, RUNS AGAINST: 33)

Pinconning (0-3) — lost to Almont 6-3, lost to Waterford Kettering 7-3, lost to Port Huron Northern 14-4. (RUNS FOR: 10, RUNS AGAINST: 27)

POOL F

Eaton Rapids (3-0) — beat Henry Ford II 14-6, beat Brighton 8-5, beat Millington 2-1 (RUNS FOR: 24, RUNS AGAINST 12)

Millington (2-1) — beat Henry Ford II 14-0, lost to Eaton Rapids 2-1, beat Brighton 8-0. (RUNS FOR: 23, RUNS AGAINST: 2).

Brighton (1-2) — lost to Eaton Rapids 8-5, beat Henry Ford II 12-10, lost to Millington 8-0. (RUNS FOR: 17, RUNS AGAINST: 26).

Henry Ford II (0-3) — lost to Eaton Rapids 14-6, lost to Millington 14-0, lost to Brighton 12-10 (RUNS FOR: 16, RUNS AGAINST: 40).

POOL G

Garden City (3-0) — beat Lapeer 14-7, beat Marysville 9-1, beat Troy 7-3. (RUNS FOR: 30, RUNS AGAINST: 11). 

Marysville (2-1) — beat Troy 10-0, beat Lapeer 6-5, lost to Garden City 9-1 (RUNS FOR: 17, RUNS AGAINST: 14)

Lapeer (1-2) — lost to Marysville, 6-5, lost to Garden City 14-7, beat Troy 9-0. (RUNS FOR: 21, 20).

Troy (0-3) — lost to Marysville 10-0, lost to Lapeer 9-0, lost to Garden City 7-3. (RUNS FOR: 3, RUNS AGAINST: 26).

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Incomplete results available from Pools H and I, which were moved to Grand Blanc Middle School due to the field conditions.]

North Farmington (2-1) — lost to Monroe 5-4, beat Impact 11-7, beat Traverse City West 10-3