Walled Lake Northern and South Lyon both raise trophies after splitting championship games at U-M's Alumni Field
ANN ARBOR — It wasn’t exactly a filming of “Oprah,” where everybody gets a car.
Nor was it a matter where everyone got a participation ribbon.
Still, when the last of the cars cleared the parking lot next to the University of Michigan’s Wilpon Softball Complex Thursday, everybody was headed home relatively satisfied in the hardware they’d grabbed for themselves.
No. 4-ranked South Lyon was carting home the trophy for the Lakes Valley Conference regular season championship, having beaten No. 9 Walled Lake Northern, 11-6, in the continuation of a suspended game from three weeks ago.
“I think for the whole league, it was great. And that’s what we’re trying to do with this new league, create an event. I think they’re going to try to expand the tournament next year, so there will be seeding and more than one game, and it’ll end here,” South Lyon coach Dan DePaulis said. “But it couldn’t have worked out better, and what a thrill for these guys to play at U-M.”
The Knights were just as happy with the LVC tournament championship trophy they claimed with an 8-2 win over the Lions in the title contest that followed.
“It was awesome. I wish we had this field,” said Northern coach Kristen Woodard. “It was really fun. It’s a great event, and I’m excited that our conference is doing this every year, and I think it’ll end up being a really great tradition.”
The resumption of the second game of the May 1 doubleheader between South Lyon and Northern was necessitated by Lakeland’s 8-1 win over the Lions on Tuesday, dropping their lead over the Knights to just one game. It gave Northern a chance to play itself into a share of the regular-season crown by winning the resumed game, which had been suspended in a 5-5 tie after five innings.
The first batter got the lead back for the Lions, though, as Riley Bourlier cracked a leadoff home run to right field.
“To start, that was huge for us. We subbed her into the game, and we wanted to make a change, because we’d moved some people around in that game when it got suspended,” DePaulis said. “She’s been hitting the ball really well. We play with huge fences, and she’ll hit some deep shots, and won’t get the home runs, so I’m happy it went over the fence for her.”
South Lyon would add two more in the sixth inning on Madalyn Keller’s RBI single, and an error.
Ella Vitale singled in two runs, and scored on an RBI double by Keller to make it 11-5 in the top of the seventh.
Northern got one back in the bottom of the seventh — when Jenna Kroll singled, and scored on a throwing error — but could get no closer. Alexis Bonk, who struck out 19 in the first game of the original doubleheader, before coming on in relief in the nightcap before it was suspended, finished off the Knights to clinch the regular-season trophy.
The Knights (29-4) knew they weren’t going to be able to play the way they played in the resumption and get away with it in the second game.
“We had the opportunity, but just weren’t ready to play. … I think that (the quick home run) may have deflated us a little bit, but we still need to make plays on defense. Plays that we normally make. I think we just got nervous — I don’t know if it was the venue or what it was, but hopefully that’ll be the last time you’ll see that,” Woodard said. “We could either come back out and continue play that way, or we could play the way we’re capable of playing. And we decided to come out and play like we’re capable of playing. … Even though there was no score the first couple of innings, the way we were fielding, and just our mentality and our energy level, I knew we’d be OK, and play like we’re capable of playing.”
Kroll’s two-run double in the third inning put Northern on the board in the championship game, and the Knights just kept adding to the lead. Allisa DiPrima doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kylie Hatfield to make it 4-1 after four innings, then the Knights batted around in the top of the seventh, scoring four runs to make it 8-2.
An error and two walks loaded the bases for Shaylin Ciaramitaro, who brought in one run with a groundout. Two more runs scored on errors, then DiPrima brought in the eighth run by beating out an infield single.
South Lyon scored once in the third and once in the fifth, but couldn’t put the big rally together. Kendra Blackie’s bad-hop single scored the first run for the Lions, then Monteith’s groundout in the fifth scored the other.
Caitlyn Mullins struck out just one, but pitched to contact successfully enough throughout the game to navigate her way out of a number of jams, keeping the Lions from putting those rallies together.
“She’s a freshman,” Woodard said of Mullins. “I’ve thrown her pretty much against all the tough teams, and she just keeps getting stronger. I like how she finished the game today. I like to see that moving forward.”
Both teams ended up with freshmen in the circle at the end of the second game — Northern by design, South Lyon by necessity.
Julia Duncan made her second varsity appearance when she relieved Bonk to start the sixth, and acquitted herself well.
“We have the philosophy at South Lyon of “next woman up,” and that’s what we tell the girls. Julia knew she was probably going to throw today, and I think the speed difference helped us a little bit, and I thought she did a great job,” DePaulis said.
Normally, the second game of two for the Lions would go to their 1-A pitcher, Monteith, but she’s been struggling with a sore elbow, and hasn’t pitched recently.
“She can’t pitch as of right now,” DePaulis said of the Central Michigan commit, who is getting an MRI in the near future. “We’re still waiting to see what the doctors say, if she’s going to be able to be back at the end of the season, or not, but yeah, she can’t throw for us right now.”
Bonk has been a workhorse for the Lions when needed, but even she was running on fumes, as she’s been ill this week.
“She was out of school two days ago, with a 100-degree temperature. She was having a little adrenaline was what was getting her through it right there, and she wanted to play, and she’s a warrior, but you could tell as the second game started going on, she was really feeling it, really tired,” DePaulis said. “We decided to rest her, and we’re going to try to keep her healthy for the end of the season.”
In the earlier games, Pinckney beat Waterford Mott, 8-6; Waterford Kettering shut out Walled Lake Western, 6-0; Lakeland beat Milford, 18-5; and South Lyon East knocked off Walled Lake Central 3-1.