Belding looking for return trip to Battle Creek

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:28 am on Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Belding junior Mariah Heintzelman hammers a pitch for one of her three hits during Saturday’s Division 2 regional final against Hudsonville Unity Christian.

BELDING — The Belding Redskins softball team has won four consecutive regional titles. They will be looking for their first trip to the Division 2 state semifinals since 2010.

In 2010, the Redskins defeated Williamston 3-2 to advance to Bailey Park in Battle Creek for the state semifinals. After two quarterfinal losses the past two years (2011 to Stevensville Lakeshore and 2012 to Wayland Union), the Redskins are ready for the return trip to the “Cereal City.”

Belding (19-8) will have its chance today with a game against the Linden Eagles (28-4) at Davenport University.

The Redskins advanced to the quarterfinals with an exciting, eight inning 3-2 win over Hudsonville Unity Christian on Saturday. Linden defeated Wayland Union 10-8 to earn its first ever regional title the same day.

“I don’t know a lot about them. I know they score a lot of runs, but they also give up a lot of runs,” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “They have some good bats, but everyone at this point is good and you respect everyone.

“Thay have to be good to come out of that regional with Wayland Union and Eaton Rapids. We feel like we have a shot and we feel excited about this,” she added.

Linden — out of the Flint Metro League — defeated Owosso for its second consecutive district title. Belding knocked off Comstock Park for its fifth straight district title.

Belding pitcher Caitlyn Alkire slides across home plate for the winning run in Saturday’s 3-2 regional championship victory over Hudsonville Unity Christian.

At practice on Monday, the Redskins stayed with the same routine they have had all season long.

“We didn’t do anything different. We did the things we do everyday and really didn’t change a thing,” Linebaugh said. “We did our normal warmup, got some swings in, had Caitlyn (Alkire) throw a little bit, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

The only difference with practice was rain cut things short.

“It was a great practice today, but the rain got us. We were out there just a little bit and then went inside,” Linebaugh said. “We had our youth camp after that and we got to share that excitement with the young kids and the community.”

Because of today’s quarterfinal game, the youth camp scheduled for today has been moved to Thursday. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s camp will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Redskins will have the experience advantage of playing in the quarterfinals, despite having just one senior (Alkire).

Alkire, who waited for a couple of years for her turn on the mound has done an outstanding job this season. Admittingly, Alkire was a little nervous heading in the final innings of both the regional semifinal and final games Saturday.

Both times, Belding’s opponent rallied to get close or tie the game in the seventh inning.

“She (Alkire) said she was a little nervous going into the seventh inning,” Linebaugh said. “I told her it’s 21 outs and the last three shouldn’t be any harder than the first three. I think going through some of these close games will be helpful. We have learned to play under this pressure.”

The winner of today’s game will face the winner of Escanaba/Saginaw Swan Valley in Friday’s state semifinal game at Bailey Park at 6 p.m.

The winner of Livonia Ladywood/ St. Clair will face the winner of Stevensville Lakeshore/Tecumseh in the other semifinal.

The Division 2 state championship game will take place Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Bailey Park.

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