SEBEWAING — The wind was blowing out Thursday as the Unionville-Sebewaing Area softball team hosted Reese in the Greater Thumb West opener for both schools.
The result was a pair of final scores rarely, if ever, seen in the fierce rivalry.
Seven softballs left the park in the first game — four by Reese, three by USA — as the Patriots came back from six runs down to capture a 17-15 win. In the nightcap, USA won 19-5 in five innings to grasp the upper hand in the league race.
“We needed to get that first one and I don’t care how ugly it was,” said USA coach Isaiah Gainforth. “We needed to squeak it out and we found a way. We could have easily given up when it was (8-2) and said ‘we’ll get ’em next game,’ but we kept battling and we kept competing.”
The Patriots got a pair of runs in the first inning, after the first three Reese batters were retired in order, to grab an early lead. But in the second inning, the Rockets’ bats woke up — big time — against USA pitcher Katie Engelhardt. Reese scored eight runs in the inning, highlighted by a three-run shot from Gracie Lefler and two-run blast off the bat of Carlee Selle.
The Patriots started chipping away at the lead, and finally captured its first edge of the game — 12-10 — after scoring six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Engelhardt got the Patriots rolling in the inning with a two-run home run.
USA scored five times in the bottom of the sixth, getting a three-run homer from Brianna Osentowske and solo shot from lead-off hitter Marisa Morton.
Selle went on to hit another home run for the Rockets, and was joined in the home run club by teammate Carly Schluckbier.
“Never in my 33 years have I seen a (USA/Reese softball) game like that,” said Reese coach Andy Behmlander. “I can almost add up the total scores (of the previous 33 years of USA/Reese matchups) and it’s probably close to that.”
Traditionally, the Reese/USA doubleheader is a low-scoring affair due to excellent pitching by both teams. But this year, USA had to replace last year’s Michigan Miss Softball, Nikki Bauer, and Reese graduated Kaylee Cypher, who earned first-team Division 3 all-state honors a year ago.
Of course, a 30-mile-per-hour wind blowing straight out to center field isn’t conducive to low scores.
“That’s not the way it’s meant to be played,” Behmlander said. “Obviously, the wind had a lot to do with it, but we missed some pretty easy grounders too. That was not a good display of softball as far as I’m concerned.”
Engelhardt is a junior, Reese’s top two pitcher’s — Game 1 starter Lauren Bouvey and Game 2 starter Abbie Huizar — are both freshman.
“That wind, it makes it hard to hit your spots,” Gainforth said. “If you put a halfway decent swing on it, it had a chance of going out. I don’t think there’s been 32 runs scored in this series in five years, and today, it happens in one game.”
Engelhardt earned the win, and ended up with three hits — two doubles and the homer. Sara Reinhardt (two runs) and Alexis Cady (two runs, three RBIs) each delivered three hits in the opener for USA while Osantowske had two hits, scored three runs and drove in four.
Bouvy (two runs, two RBIs) had three hits while Elena Beyerlein (two runs, two RBIs), Selle, Abbey Ackerman and Madison Peyok (two runs) added two hits apiece. Indyanna McCoy scored three runs fort the Rockets.
In the second game, Rylee Zimmer earned the win as the Patriots won in five-inning, mercy fashion.
Engelhardt had three hits, including a three-run homer, scored three runs and had five RBIs and Jessica Fritz had four hits and six runs batted in to lead USA in Game 2. Lexy Neal added two hits and scored twice.
McCoy had three hits and two RBIs for Reese in the nightcap. Ackerman added a pair of hits, including a homer, and scored twice and Bouvy delivered two hits as well.
Millington 12, North Branch 0; Millington 7, North Branch 4
NORTH BRANCH — The Cardinals upped their Tri-Valley Conference East record to 6-0 (13-2 overall) with the sweep.
Gabbie Sherman earned both wins for Millington. The sophomore Kent St. recruit tossed four innings, allowing one hit and striking out eight in the opener. And tossed five and two-thirds innings and giving up just one hit and one run while whiffing 11 in Game 2.
Sidney Bishop carried the big bat for Millington in the first game, with three hits — two doubles and a home run — and four RBIs. Taylor Rueger added three hits and three RBIs and Sherman knocked in a pair of runs. Darien Roberts scored three runs and Elizabeth Bees scored twice.
Bishop homered again in the nightcap and joined Cally Cunningham, Sherman and Rueger with a team-leading two hits. Both of Cunningham’s knocks were doubles and Sherman had a double and home run.
The Broncos got all four of their runs via the long ball. Reese Ruhlman hit a solo homer off Sherman and Brianna DeMeyers added a three-run blast.
Kingston 9, Caseville 2; Kingston 15, Caseville 3
KINGSTON — Camryn MacGuire earned the win for the Cardinals in the first game of the North Central Thumb League doubleheader, tossing all seven innings while striking out nine and giving up one earned run.
Chelsey Clapsaddle and Ashtian Davis each contributed two hits to the win while Cira Skinner drove in three runs, Clapsaddle knocked home a pair and MacGuire and Davis scored three times each.
MacGuire also won Game 2, which ended after five innings due to the mercy rule. The sophomore didn’t surrender an earned run and struck out five.
Clapsaddle again led the Cardinals in the nightcap with three hits and four runs batted in. Allie Buhnschuh and MacGuire each delivered a pair of base hits while Gerilyn Carpenter drove in three runs and Carley Smith contributed two RBIs. Smith also scored three runs and Buhnschuh, MacGuire and Skinner scored two runs apiece.
Cass City 11, Bad Axe 0; Cass City 8, Bad Axe 3
BAD AXE — The Red Hawks opened their Greater Thumb West season with a sweep.
Sagye Cuthrell earned the Game 1 win with a seven-strikeout effort that was shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.
Riley Klein and Konner Warren paced Cass City with three hits each while Lauren Dickinson added a pair. Klein knocked in five runs and Warren drove in two.
Cuthrell also earn the win in the nightcap, throwing seven innings and striking out 13.
Cuthrell and Bailee Ross each recorded two hits while Ross and Dickinson contributed two RBIs.
Frankenmuth 13, Caro 1; Frankenmuth 16, Caro 4
FRANKENMUTH — The Eagles scored 12 runs in the third inning to provide the winning margin in the opener of the Tri-Valley Conference East twinbill.
That win ended after five innings due to the mercy rule. The second game was also a mercy win for Frankenmuth, which ended after the Eagles scored three runs in the sixth inning.
In the opener, Emily Coulter earned the win with a complete-game one hitter which included six strikeouts.
Caire Breinager (two RBIs) and Madison Jammer (two runs) each had two hits for Frankenmuth while Megan Jarlock drove in three runs and Coulter and Brooklin Karwat added two RBIs each.
Kaylee Kujat had three hits, three RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases in Game 2 for Frankenmuth while Jarlock added two hits and scored twice. Hannah Karwat blasted a two-run homer and Laura Farnsworth scored three times for Frankenmuth in Game 2.
Jammer earned the win in the second contest.
The Eagles are now 14-1 overall and 6-0 in league play.