HOLLAND — On paper, Belding’s softball team had an uphill climb if they wanted to beat Wayland Union in the Division 2 softball quarterfinals at Hope College.
The Wildcats were ranked fifth in the state in Division 2 by the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association. They went into the game having lost only twice — to top-ranked Stevensville-Lakeshore and 10th-ranked St. Clair.
The Redskins found out just how good Union was in an 11-1 loss Tuesday at Wolbers Field.
“They’re good. That’s what I told the girls (Belding), they’re a good ball team,” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “They’ve lost two games this year and I wish them the best of luck. They’ll represent west Michigan very well in Battle Creek.”
After a scoreless first two innings, Union sent eight batters to the plate in scoring four runs on four hits and an error.
“You have to keep going,” Linebaugh said to her team after that. “Against Fruitport, we were up 4-0 and they came back and scored two in a big rally late in the sixth. You have to keep believing. You can’t shut yourself down or you might as well pack up at that point.”
The Wildcats added three more runs in the fourth inning, another in the fifth and two more in the sixth, capped off by a long home run to center by Sam Merren for a possible mercy at 10-0. It would have been the second time this season Wayland had mercied Belding.
But the Redskins got a run to stave off the mercy when Hannah Linebaugh got a bunt single, went to second on Kyleigh Linebaugh’s groundout, to third on Mariah Heintzelman’s single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Morgan Hill.
An RBI single by Kayla Merice put the lead back to double-digits in the seventh.
“The difference today to me was fly balls that we let drop that should have been out,” Mikayla Linebaugh said.
Some of those fly balls were hit with two strikes on the hitters, which frustrated losing pitcher Kyleigh Linebaugh a bit.
“And not making outs when there could have ben outs,” Kyleigh said. “It was frustrating having to get six outs in an inning and not three. It beats you down a lot.”
Linebaugh finished with a season-high 17 hits allowed, striking out four and walking one.
Mallory Teunissen, a freshman, got the win for Union, giving up just the two sixth-inning hits while striking out 10 and walking one.
Every player in the Wildcats’ batting order except Sabrina Preston had at least two hits. Sierra Mutchler had led with three.
While Union will face second-ranked Livonia Ladywood at Bailey Park Friday, Belding will watch and think about how far they came.
“We had six sophomores, we lost three seniors that didn’t come back this year,” she said. “If you would have told me in December we would be here I probably would have laughed at you.”
Linebaugh said the team’s expectations are still going to be high next year.
“The expectation is to get back here (to the quarterfinals),” she said. “Even though we lose three darn good ball players we have to get the young kids on board that this is what Belding softball is about, that we want to be back here every year.”