Hartland scores three in the 7th, upsets No. 1-ranked Clarkston, 3-2, in D1 quarterfinal
Detroit — Sometimes, when you pick your poison, you still end up with the bitterest pill.
Top-ranked Clarkston chose not to pitch to Hartland’s best hitter, Madelin Skene, in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s Division 1 softball quarterfinal at Wayne State, but that didn’t stall the Eagles’ rally.
Delanie Grundman followed up the free pass with a bases-loaded single to complete Hartland’s third consecutive come-from-behind victory, 3-2, in walk-off fashion.
“They do that a lot with Madelin Skene. She’s a great hitter, and my coach is always telling me, ‘Delanie, we put you in this spot. You have to be ready, you have to get the job done.’ So it’s really exciting for me to get up there, and just know that I had to do it,” said Grundman, who shot the ball through the right side of the infield to score Clare Minsker. “I was more excited than I was nervous because I knew I could do it. I knew that we were going to win. Bases were loaded, and I knew I just had to get the ball through the infield.”
The victory sends No. 9 Hartland (32-5) to a semifinal at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium in East Lansing, where the Eagles will play their arch-rival, No. 10-ranked Howell, at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Last year, it was the Wolves moving on from a win at Wayne State, heading to the semifinals. With nearly everyone back from that squad, a return trip to the final four was not necessarily expected, but it was certainly a high probability.
“It just tells you how hard it is because, actually, I think this was a little better team. It was a better team. More mature. We had a couple of breaks last year and won the quarterfinals, things didn’t go our way this time, and we didn’t win it. It was really close,” said Clarkston coach Don Peters. “We told them, and we are — we’re extremely proud of them. There’s other things in life that are more important and (they) realize that. If you can learn to give everything you have, then you can deal with the results.”
Two of the Wolves’ three graduating seniors — Paige Blevins and Hannah Chadwell — each drove in run.
Leading 2-0 after getting an insurance run in the sixth, the Wolves (37-3) were just three outs from making that return trip happen, but the Eagles’ offense — which had their seven-eight-nine to start the bottom of the seventh — was just starting to time up starter Olivia Warrington.
“Actually, I did feel pretty confident. Liv was rolling, and we’ve got such a good defense and … you know, life doesn’t always come out like you want it to, does it?” Peters said, noting that he’s planning to work on a system of using more of a closer next year, and was hesitant to try that Tuesday, before finally turning to lefty Abbey Tolmie for the final two batters. “I really hesitated to do that at the beginning of that inning, anyway, but one of my coaches was pushing me to do that, and I was like ‘Ehhh. She’s throwing so well, let’s see what she can do.’ Probably should have, but that’s hindsight.”
Eagles coach Bob Greene also knew full well where his lineup was, as the seventh rolled around, and was just hoping they could turn it over.
“We did (know). Trust me. Several times going out there, we did look at that lineup, but we said, you know what? Those guys are great hitters,” Greene said. “Just never-say-die. You guys saw that at the regional level. And we’ve been doing that all year. These guys truly, truly believe they can win, no matter what the score.”
Catcher Brooke Cowan led off the inning with a double, then Hannah Mourad doubled in the first run. Kelsey Zampa beat out a bunt single, putting the tying run 90 feet away, and turning the lineup back to the top.
“Our team doesn’t really get nervous, we just get excited. We put all our emotions into our excitement, playing for each other, playing for our friends, playing for my sisters, my family, basically,” Cowan said. “We weren’t nervous at all — maybe a little bit towards the end — but we knew we could do it. We knew we could pull it off.”
Bri Robeson brought home the tying run with a sacrifice fly to center field, and Minsker beat out another bunt, putting runners at the corners, and forcing Peters into a decision, once he went to Tolmie in relief of Warrington.
“You know, Sparky Anderson (used to say), ‘Don’t let their best hitter beat you.’ So why give her an opportunity? So why give her a chance to hit. I’d do that over and over. Especially if there’s a base open. Now, of course, if I had it to do over again, I might do something different in that inning. We don’t have that (luxury), do we?” Peters said. “The first batter (Tolmie) faced, we kind of walked her on purpose, kind of what you’d call an unintentional intentional walk — for a lot of reasons. It sets up the force, and she’s their best hitter. Abbey pitched a nice pitch to that girl (Grundman), but she just hit it in the right spot. If it would’ve been a foot this way, or that way, we might have had a double play.”
He chose to pitch carefully around Skene, and take his chances with Grundman, with the bases loaded. Greene was fully in favor of those odds.
“Nobody better than her in that situation. I knew they weren’t going to pitch to Skene. We had a quick conversation, I said, ‘If they give you anything, it’s going to be on the outside of the plate. Drill one to right field, see what you can do.’ They didn’t even give her that, and that’s fine,” Greene said. “I told Madelin, Delanie’s right behind you. You got on base, celebrate that, and let Delanie do her job.”
The senior was more than happy to get the chance, as the sixth batter to step up to the plate in the inning.
“Yeah, it was just base hit after base hit. It was just the best feeling,” Grundman said. “I just wanted to hit so bad. I wanted to do it. It’s just really exciting, and I’m happy I was up when I was.”
Division 2 at Hope College
In the Division 2 softball quarterfinal at Hope College, South Haven's Anna Bocock's grand slam wiped out a 4-0 deficit in a wild 5-4 win over unbeaten Spring Lake.
It was the fourth homer of the year for Bocock, who will have the chance for further heroics on the Hope College field. She will play for the Flying Dutchmen next season.
"When you have two strikes, I widen my stance," she said. "It's like we have four steps and the fourth is a contact swing. I've hit a grand slam before, but not as big as this one. This was a game-changer."
The loss snaps a 40-game winning streak for Spring Lake. South Haven, which last won a quarterfinal in 1982, improves to 31-8. The team plays Dearborn Divine Child in Thursday's 2 p.m.semifinal at Michigan State.
It was the second straight game a home run played a huge part in a South Haven win. Freshman Jordan Holland beat Stevensville Lakeshore with a homer in the eighth inning in the regional final.
Steve Vedder contributed to this report