HOLLAND — Belding sophomore Greta Wilker was standing on deck. Just one batter away from having the chance to win the game for the Redskins.
It was Wilker, after all, who sparked the Redskins in the final inning. Unfortunately, Wilker never got the chance to bat for the second time in the seventh, as the Allendale Falcons held on for a 12-9 Division 2 regional semifinal win at Hope College on Saturday.
“I thought we played hard to the end. That’s what I’m most proud about,” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “These girls never quit, they never stop believing in it and they never quit playing.”
Belding (18-12-1) played without two senior starters in Mariah Heintzelman (mono) and Rachel Hunt (hip), which added to the pressure of another regional tournament.
Allendale (19-13) jumped all over the Redskins in the first inning for five runs, two of which were unearned and what would be a pattern the entire game. Only five of Allendale’s 12 runs were earned.
“We started slow in all our games during the districts,” Allendale coach Jason Hubbs said. “We made a point this week in practice about jumping out to a good start right away. We did, getting up five runs to start. We just eluded the 10-run, five inning mercy. I was hoping to get that.”
The Falcons scored once more in the second inning and five times in the third for an 11-0 advantage.
“We were really flat to start,” Linebaugh said. “We had a chance to make a double play that could of got us out of the first inning, but didn’t get it. They scored a couple after that.”
Belding scored its first run in the fourth inning when senior Hannah Linebaugh crossed the plate after a fielder’s choice ground ball by Alyviah Mason.
The Redskins were facing a 10-run mercy (trailing 11-1) in the fifth inning with two outs. Three consecutive hits by Wilker, Brooke Linebaugh and Julia Rupert (RBI) made the score 11-2 and extended the game.
Rupert entered the game to pitch in the third in place of starter Paige Ledin. Rupert allowed just three runs, two of them earned in 4 2/3 innings.
“She (Rupert) pitched really well. It’s tricky because the two games we lost in the regular season to Allendale, Julia pitched,” Linebaugh said. “I went with Paige, who had only given up five hits to them in a mercy. They hit her (Ledin) hard, but we didn’t back her up behind her.”
Allendale added a run in the top of the seventh inning for a 12-2 lead.
The Falcons, needing just three outs, switched pitchers to start the bottom of the seventh inning as Marcie Ramont relieved starter Mikayla MacGeorge.
“We kind of took our foot off the pedal a little bit,” Allendale coach Jason Hubbs said. “I wanted to try and rest my pitcher for the second game, but had to come back to her.”
Kaitlyn Lieffers started the inning off with a walk, which was followed by a Ledin single. Wilker stepped to the plate, she had missed a home run to deep centerfield in her previous at-bat, and delivered a line shot over the right-centerfield fence for a three-run home run.
In all, the Redskins had five hits in the seventh inning and scored six runs. With two outs and two runners on, Ledin hit a hard ground ball that was fielded cleanly for the final out of the game.
Allendale’s Carlee DeVrou also pitched in the seventh before MacGeorge needed to return to get the final out.
“Belding is a resilient bunch and well coached,” Hubbs said. “I know them well. They won’t give up and will keep on coming.”
Wilker finished with two hits and three RBIs, while Rupert, Ledin and Ryann Rich each had two hits. Rupert, Lieffers and Krista Hull had RBIs.
Hudsonville Unity Christian defeated Grand Rapids South Christian 6-2 in the other semifinal and then defeated Allendale 2-0 to win the regional title.