BELDING — Belding’s softball team made it six straight Division 2 district titles on Saturday at their own field.
Winning six straight district titles has not been lost on coach Mikayla Linebaugh, who has coached the Redskins for all six of those titles.
“I think experience,” Linebaugh said about what has made the streak happen. “I think our kids, at least for me, we have been here with some of the returning players. I don’t sense any nerves from them at all. So I think experience, the drive to win and showing up to play. One batter can be on. All the little things have to come together.”
So now Belding will be going to Hope College for regionals this coming Saturday. This is a regional that will have a number of returning teams in it.
“Unity (Hudsonville Unity Christian) is back there. (Grand Rapids) South Christian has been there before,” Linebaugh said. “Everybody’s there that has strong programs. You still have to show up and play. But I’m proud to get to this point. I told my kids don’t ever think it’s old to win districts. Will the streak end? Who knows?”
The first team the Redskins will have to face is an old foe in Allendale. The Falcons have played Belding in the O-K Blue Conference, going 2-1 against the Redskins.
“We lost the first game 10-4 to them (Allendale) and we turned around and mercied them 11-1,” Linebaugh recalled. “Then in the single game we lost 6-5, but two of my starters were sick and another threw up on the bus. They’re a good team. It’s not like we blown them out. Can we play with them? Absolutely.”
Lurking is a possible rematch with Unity Christian, who the Redskins defeated 3-2 (8 innings) in last year’s regional final.
But Linebaugh won’t let her team look past the Falcons.
“We talked about this on Saturday,” she said. “We had never seen East Grand Rapids. I told my girls we can’t start talking about the finals until you win. Allendale is well coached. They’ve got their own goals and things they’re reaching for. You just have to be better than one team from here on out. We don’t look beyond because every game can be your last game.”
So to beat Allendale the game will come down to defense, Linebaugh said.
“I think defense is huge,” she said. “Our bats are coming back around. We’re scoring a lot of runs. We have a lineup that has power, but we can bunt. But defense wins ball games. Defense becomes key.”
The Redskins will play at 12:30 p.m. after Unity Christian and South Christian play at 10 a.m. The regional finals will be at 3 p.m.