Belding looking for 4th straight regional title

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:08 am on Friday, June 07, 2013

Belding’s Alyviah Mason, right, fires to first as Wyoming High’s Alina Molette (6) passes by during the two teams’ game May 16.

BELDING — Different year, same results.

The Belding Redskins softball program just continues to win. Saturday’s 9-2 win over Comstock Park at home gave the Redskins their fifth straight district title.

Now Saturday, the Redskins will be looking for their fourth straight regional title and another trip to the Division 2 quarterfinals (to be held at Davenport University).

With so much success in the past years, the Redskins have a confidence most teams don’t. They expect to win and compete for titles.

“I guess it’s just instilling what is expected. The kids come in and that (winning districts) is an expectation and a goal they strive for,” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “We just work hard, do the basics and believe this can happen every year.”

Belding peeled off 17 wins during the regular season and finished second in the O-K Blue (9-3) behind Wyoming, although the Redskins handed the Wolves their lone league loss this year (11-1).

Belding’s Rachel Hunt fields a ground ball at shortstop during a game against Lakeview this season.

“We have been playing very good. Saturday, it just came together,” Linebaugh said. “We’ve had a couple of bumps in the road, but I think Caitlin Alkire has really stepped up in the circle (pitching) for us. She has thrown a majority of our games and really has done well.”

Belding will face Grand Rapids Christian in the regional semifinal on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Hope College in Holland. The Eagles, out of the O-K White Conference, went 15-7 overall and defeated East Grand Rapids 7-2 in the district final.

The Redskins are known for playing fundamental softball. Linebaugh credits teamwork on the list of accolades.

“It’s teamwork,” Linebaugh said. “Our defense is strong this year, we are getting the timely hits when we need them, so it’s all playing together well. Hopefully, it continues.”

As Linebaugh mentioned, the Redskins have been strong on the mound, thanks to Alkire. Having big shoes to fill this year, Alkire has done just that.

“She was our No. 3 last year,  behind Kyleigh and Morgan (Hill),” Linebaugh said. “She only threw a very few innings in the last couple of years. She has come in and taken ahold of it and done a really nice job.”

Kyleigh is now pitching for Davenport and Morgan is playing for Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Belding has been led by senior Rachel Hunt and freshman Greta Wilker at the plate.

“Rachel and Greta both have dominated at the plate,” Linebaugh said. “Rachel, in conference, hit over .600 and Greta was close to .500. As far as bats, those two have come through.

“Brooke and Hannah Linebaugh both are my bunters and have and between 15 and 17 sacrifice bunts,” she added.

Sparta will face Hudsonville Unity Christian in the first regional semifinal at 10 a.m. Belding will face an unfamiliar opponent in the Eagles in the following game.

“I don’t know a lot, but at this point everyone is good,” Linebaugh said. “I’ve heard they have a got a decent pitcher and a couple of good fielders, but I just feel our lineup is pretty solid.”

Belding’s pitching is strong and its defense is strong. More importantly, the Redskins have the confidence they will come out winners on Saturday.

“If we play like we play on Saturday we will be pretty tough to beat,” Linebaugh said.

The winners of the semifinals will square off in the regional final at 3 p.m.

The Division 2 quarterfinals will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Davenport University.

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