After a nearly three-hour break between its semifinal win and the championship game, Fruitport had trouble rejuvenating its competitive juices. Through five innings against Belding in the finals on Saturday at Hope College’s Wolters Stadium, the Trojans managed just one hit and at one point, had 13-straight batters retired by Redskins’ senior hurler Kyleigh Linebaugh.
The Trojans flipped a switch on in the sixth inning and tried to storm back with a three hit, two-run rally, but Linebaugh regained her composure and struck out the side in the seventh, clinching Belding’s 4-2 victory.
The regioinal championship is Belding’s (28-10), third-straight, while Fruitport (29-10) comes up one win short in its bid for the program’s first-ever regional crown. The Redskins advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals against Wayland Union, which will also be hosted by Hope College.
“The break (between games) didn’t help. Those breaks always kill us,” said Lee, the Trojans’ ace in the pitching circle the past three seasons. “It was hot out there. But they had to deal with it too, so we can’t use that as an excuse.
“I just got kind of nerved up a little bit and left a couple up,” Lee added, who allowed eight hits and struck out five.
Lee did a good job battling through the heart of Belding’s lineup, but the Redskins had other players step up. They picked up an RBI single from No. 7 hitter Catilin Alkire to break a scoreless tie in the second, added another run on an RBI single from No. 6 hitter Mindy Reminga in the fourth, and had No. 8 hitter Makayla Boss tally a single and later score to ignite a two-run fifth.
By the end of the fifth, Fruitport was facing a 4-0 deficit and had just a harmless single by Morgan Glover in the first inning, but more weak grounders and pop-ups then it cared to count. Fruitport coach Bob Dorman said the game was starting to resemble the last time the Trojans advanced to the regional round two years ago, a 5-0 loss to Hudsonville Unity Christian.
“It was like we were just going through the motions,” Dorman said. “It was just dribbler after dribbler, and granted, there were a couple hit hard up the middle that their pitcher made nice plays on.”
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