HOLLAND — What many thought would be a rough season for Belding’s girls softball team has turned into a third consecutive trip to the Division 2 quarterfinals.
The Redskins won the regional tournament at Hope College Saturday by beating Zeeland East 5-2 and Fruitport 4-2.
“I’m so happy for them (Belding),” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “This is awesome for these kids. We’ve won three in a row and we’re blessed, but I want them to really enjoy this.”
The day started out with a tough battle against the Chix. Zeeland East got the first run of the game on a double by Olivia Cooke, a wild pitch and a passed ball.
The Redskins got that back in the third inning with walks to Rachel Hunt and Kyleigh Linebaugh and a two-run double by Morgan Hill.
The Chix tied the game again in the fourth on another Cooke double and an RBI single by Lydia Smallegan.
But in the fifth, Hannah Linebaugh was safe on an error and Mariah Heintzelman drove her in with a double for the lead run. A pair of insurance runs in the sixth — both driven in on a triple by Hannah Linebaugh — ended Zeeland East’s season.
Kyleigh Linebaugh struck out nine without a walk, allowing five hits for the win.
Brooke Leonard took the loss for the Chix, scattering six hits and four walks in a complete-game five-hitter.
“Morgan came through with a double and Hannah’s hit was huge, giving us some insurance and breaking it open,” Mikayla Linebaugh said.
Linebaugh said she didn’t know a lot about the Chix.
“Sometimes I think that might be just as well,” she said. “It doesn’t get too worked up about things.”
Heintzelman was the only Belding player with two hits. Hill, Hannah Linebaugh and Caitlyn Alkire had the others. Cooke had the two doubles as the only Zeeland East player to have two.
The Redskins then faced the Trojans, who beat Grand Rapids Christian 6-2 in the first game of the regional tournament.
Alkire gave Belding the early lead with an RBI single in the second, Mindy Reminga had an RBI single in the fourth and Rachel Hunt added an RBI single in the fifth. Kyleigh Linebaugh also doubled home a run in the fifth.
Linebaugh was cruising on the mound in the first 5 2/3 innings, allowing only a single to Morgan Glover in the first inning.
But after two were out in the sixth inning, a walk, a double and two singles by the Trojans made the game close.
“We got kind of rattled in the sixth inning,” Mikayla Linebaugh said. “Kyleigh felt she was leaving the ball up a little high. She got frustrated with herself for putting the ball up a little bit. But that’s the thing with Kyleigh. She knows how to correct herself. She knows the game, she knows what she had to do.”
Kyleigh Linebaugh allowed a single in the seventh with no one out but struck out three consecutive batters for the win. She finished with six strikeouts, four hits allowed and two walks.
Barl Lee was the losing pitcher for Fruitport, scattering nine hits and striking out five.
“We didn’t have any big innings but one here and there starts to add up,” Mikayla Linebaugh said.
Heintzelman, Reminga and Kyleigh Linebaugh had two hits each in the game. The only Trojan with more than one hit was Glover.
Next up for the Redskins is a return trip to Hope College at 4 p.m. Tuesday for a quarterfinal game against Wayland Union. The Wildcats mercied Eaton Rapids 13-2 in the finals of the DeWitt regional to advance to the quarterfinals.
“We’ve played them earlier in the year and our lineup was totally messed up,” Mikayla Linebaugh said. “It’s a new game. They’re a great team.”