By JEROME MURPHY
Argus-Press Sports Writer
OTISVILLE — Chesaning nearly pulled a shocker in Saturday’s Division 3 regional semifinal, leading No. 1-ranked Millington 3-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning.
But the Cardinals rallied for a 4-3 victory in eight innings in the most dramatic game of the Division 3 softball regional at Otisville LakeVille Saturday.
Millington (34-2-1) went on to beat Byron in the regional championship game, but the 6-0 victory lacked the drama of the semifinal against the Indians (27-4).
Millington scored the winning run in the semifinal on two walks and a run-scoring double in the eighth inning. The Cardinals trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, but tied it at 3 without a hit. Maddy Hahn drew a walk and pinch runner Ashley Zell then tagged up on a fly out to left and was safe at second. The ball got past the cut-off and sailed into right field, allowing Zell to go all the way home to tie the game.
“We were three outs away from going home,” Millington coach Greg Hudie said. “Getting that tying run across was definitely huge and putting us in extra innings.”
Chesaning coach Ron Poyer said earlier in the week his team had to play a near flawless game to beat the top-ranked Cardinals. It nearly happened.
“We almost did,” Poyer said. “There were a couple of plays in the last inning or so — had they gone a different way it would have been a different game.”
Julia Bishop’s two-run homer in the fourth and Taylor Gross’ RBI-single in the sixth staked the Indians to a 3-0 edge.
Bishop, who bats left, pulled the pitch to right field for the homer. It was the first hit of the game at that point for Chesaning against Millington right-hander Gabbie Sherman. Gross was safe on an error moments before Bishop launched the homer.
“I think it was a fastball,” Bishop said. “It looked good to me. I didn’t know (it was a homer) right away. I just saw my coach jumping up and down. I don’t know how to describe it. Everyone was screaming and it was so exciting.”
Erica Barta ripped a one-out triple to right and Gross smacked a two-out run-scoring single to make it 3-0 Indians.
Gross, a junior right-hander, held the potent Cardinals bats scoreless on three hits over the first five innings.
“(Taylor) pitched really well,” Poyer said. “We knew that they were going to hit the ball. She had to hit her spots. The last couple of innings, she might have gotten a little squeezed on some of the calls. But we’ve got to play the game and unfortunately things didn’t go our way today.”
Millington pulled within 3-2 on Leah Denome’s two-run homer in the sixth after a lead-off triple by Darrien Roberts.
“It was a curveball and she hit it where she needed to,” Gross said. “It’s not how we wanted it to end up. But we’re still so proud of all of our girls.”
Gross allowed four runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings. She struck out one and walked four.
Sherman went the distance for Millington. She struck out 16 and did not walk a batter and limited Chesaning to just four hits.
BYRON TOPS BENDLE, FALLS TO MILLINGTON
Byron rallied to beat Burton Bendle 3-2 in the second regional semifinal. The Eagles, however, were eliminated for the fourth straight at the regionals by Millington, 6-0.
The Cardinals hammered three home runs and Sherman continued her pitching mastery.
In the regional final, Byron managed just five hits, with Riley Viele tagging two singles. Sherman struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
“Millington did have a tough game against Chesaning earlier in the day and Millington is a heck of a team,” Byron coach Anne Boillat said. “It’s tough that we’ve met them four years in a row and they’ve beaten us four years in a row. But, you know, what are you going to do? I thought our girls hit Gabbie. We got runners on and we just couldn’t get them around.”
Byron pitcher Lauren Viele gave up six runs on seven hits. Roberts clubbed a first-inning solo homer and Deome powered a two-run dinger in the fifth that was followed one out later by Sydney Bishop’s home run.
Viele struck out five and walked none while hitting one batter.
“We battled them hard but they are a good team,” Lauren Viele said. “We did a lot better this season than we thought we would do. I’m really proud of our girls and we all persevered.”
Byron had three hits in the sixth as Greta L’Esperance, Jaden Zakoor and Riley Viele all singled, but two were out either trying to steal or advance an extra base.
Byron (22-13) opened on a positive note with a one-run victory over Bendle and hard-throwing right-hander Jody Newton.
The Eagles scored single runs in the first, sixth and seventh innings after trailing 2-1 after five innings. Byron made the most of four hits — with L’Esperance, Lauren Viele, Alexis Ragnone and Jenna Orlando hitting safely.
Newton struck out 15 and walked three.
“We knew she was going to be a tough pitcher and it took us awhile to get around on her,” Boillat said.
Byron tied the game at 2 when Riley Viele singled and then scored on Lauren Viele’s double.
Byron broke the tie in the seventh as Orlando singled, L’Esperance drew an intentional walk and Riley Viele drove in a run on a grounder to shortstop that was botched by an errant throw to third.
L’Esperance had a bunt single in the first and stole home when she caught Bendle by surprise during a lull in the action.
The Bowling-Green bound senior shortstop, after hugging several of her teammates, ended a standout four-year varsity career. She led the area in hits this season.
“Now that it’s over, I just want to see them move on and finally take (the state title) this year,” L’Esperance said of Millington. “(Winning regionals) is always a goal but, yes, it was a little tougher this year, coming back from having a great team last year. We lost a lot of great players.”
Division 3 Regional at LakeVille
MILLINGTON 6, BYRON 0
Byron 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Millington 201 030 x — 6 7 0
WP: Gabbie Sherman, Millington (7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 9 K, 0 BB).
LP: Lauren Viele, Byron (6 IP, 6 R, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP)
Hits: Millington— Leah Denome 3-3 (HR, 2B, 2 RBI), Sydney Pope 2-3 (HR, 2 RBI), Darrien Roberts 1-2 (HR, RBI). Byron — Riley Viele 2-3, Great L’Esperance 1-3, Jaden Zakoor 1-3, Alexis Ragnone 1-2.
Records: Byron 22-13, Millington 34-2-1.
BYRON 3, BENDLE 2
Byron 100 001 1 — 3 4 1
Bendle 001 010 0 — 2 6 0
WP: Lauren Viele, Byron (7 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 10 K, 2 BB)
LP: Jody Newton, Bendle (7 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 15 K, 3 BB)
Hits: Bendle — Brittany Ray 2-4 (2B), Jody Newton 2-4 (RBI). Byron — Greta L’Esperance 1-2 (R), Lauren Viele 1-4 (2B, RBI), Alexis Ragnone 1-3 (2B), Jenna Orlando 1-2.
Records: Bendle 17-6.
MILLINGTON 4, CHESANING 3 (8 INN.)
Chesaning 000 201 00 — 3 4 0
Millington 000 002 11 — 4 7 0
WP: Gabbie Sherman, Millington (8 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 15 K, 0 BB)
LP: Taylor Gross, Chesaning (72/3 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 1 K, 4 BB, 1 HBP)
Hits: Millington — Leah Denome 1-3 (HR, 2 RBI), Darrien Roberts 3-4 (3B), Gabbie Sherman 1-3 2B), Sydney Bishop 1-2. Chesaning — Julia Bishop 1-3 (HR, 2 RBI), Erica Barta 1-3 I3B), Taylor Gross 1-3 (RBI), Haylei Drope 1-3.
Records: Chesaning 27-4.