EAST LANSING — Tears filled the eyes of the Vestaburg Wolverines softball team.
That’s what happens when seasons come to an end. That’s what happens when seniors have played their final games. That’s what happens when dreams fall short of expectations.
On Friday, the Vestaburg softball season came to an end in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 state semifinals in East Lansing at Secchia Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.
The Wolverines fell to defending state champion Kalamazoo Christian 6-1. The Comets will be looking for their eighth softball state championship today in the finals against Rogers City.
“It was a great season, a great run,” Vestaburg coach Dan Rons said. “The team bought into what we sold. They believed in themselves. They got on it early in the season and started hitting the ball. We struggled with errors all year. We’ve had trouble with the ball, but we’ve been able to overcome it. They did a great job all year.”
Regardless of the outcome, fans from Vestaburg and the surrounding areas came out in full force to cheer on the Wolverines. Easily, two-thirds of the stadium seats were filled with red and white.
Tom Wilcox came from Carson City to cheer on the Eagles’ conference (MSAC) rival.
“I’m here to support Vestaburg,” Wilcox said prior to the game. “My daughter (Katie) was a pitcher and started pitching lessons in Dan Rons’ pole barn. He brought in pitching experts from the area and that’s how she got started. So I’ve gotten to know Dan and his daughter, Jannelle, over the years.”
Vestaburg allowed two runs in the first inning and four in the third inning to the Comets. Two first inning runs were unearned, but the big blast came off the bat of Comets freshman Aliyah Lemmer. Her bases loaded-clearing double gave the Comets a 6-0 advantage.
“It was a great season. We just came up a little short in the end,” Ryan Dove said. “What can you say? It happens. I think the nerves got the best of us today and we didn’t hit the ball.”
Dove’s daughter, Rylee, is a senior on the Wolverines squad.
“We had a lot of people here today. It’s great to see the support. I know the girls really appreciate it. It was a good turnout,” Dove said. “It’s sad to see them lose.
They had a great year, but it was a great run and the girls played really well this year. It’s sad to see it come to an end.”
The Wolverines were playing in their second state semifinal game in school history. The first came in 1986, which Vestaburg lost 4-2 to Marcellus. That game, coincidentally, was also played on Friday the 13th and at Michigan State University.
Vestaburg assistant coach and 2008 graduate Missy Rons said it just wasn’t the Wolverines’ day.
“I’m proud of the girls. They worked really hard,” Missy Rons said. “They made progress from where they were in the past. Today just wasn’t our day. But I’m proud of the girls.
Missy Rons played on the last Vestaburg team to reach the state quarterfinals, in 2007. On Friday, she watched her younger sister, Jannelle, play her final game.
Other seniors playing their final games were Shana Fisk, Ellen Kilchermann, Raylee Dove, Ashley Beach and Hayley Johnson.
Vestaburg, once the tears dry, will regroup, prepare and dream of another long postseason run next year.