ST. JOHNS — Two right-handed aces, Owosso’s Macy Irelan and Alma’s Hailey Leister, had an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel in Monday’s Division 2 district softball championship game.
Leister struck out 10 as Alma edged Owosso 1-0 with a run in the third inning. The senior threw 100 pitches, with 74 going for strikes.
The Panthers’ leadoff hitter in the third, Sarah Gadde, stroked a single to right field and advanced on Erin Bialagga’s sacrifice bunt. After Irelan struck out the next batter, Dalanie Mott hit a run-scoring single.
Irelan, a freshman, threw 93 pitches (61 strikes). Irelan struck out nine and walked three — two of which were intentional free passes to Leister.
Owosso coach JoEllen Smith said her team just couldn’t get the key hit when it needed it most. But her team played its heart out, she said.
“It was just a great game — you don’t see games like that anymore,” she said.
Smith said the Trojans (29-9) knew how good Leister was heading into the matchup, and Owosso had nothing to be ashamed of.
“We had a district meeting (Sunday) and we saw everybody’s stats and yeah, I knew what we were going up against,” Smith said. “They were 28-8 and we were 29-8 so we knew it was going to be a good game. And it was. In the past my kids have gotten a little nervous. I’ll tell you what, this is a young team and they stuck right there and they never gave up and they are going to be something to look for for the next few years.”
Alma head coach Troy Anderson said his team got excellent pitching and defense.
“I have two good pitchers — (Leister) and my leftie who threw the first game today (Danielle Shaw),” Anderson said. “It’s a 1-2 punch all the way. Today’s game was the way I grew up playing softball. Whoever crosses the plate first usually wins most of the time in something like this.”
Catcher Rose Alman, the lone senior on the Owosso squad, said the loss was a hard one to take but she said her squad played its best against a very tough pitcher.
“I feel like we definitely played our hearts out,” Alman said. “They just got one hit which they needed and we didn’t get it. It’s a shame, but I think we all played our hearts out and played to our full potential. We were just facing a really good team.
“This season was my best season and at first I was a little worried being the only senior. But it defnitely turned out to be for the bettter. It was so enjoyable playing with everybody. We were treated like family. And it definitely was a great team to play for. It was definitely one of the closest teams I played for.”
Owosso, the Flint Metro League champion, had a couple of good chances but couldn’t cash in.
The Trojans’ Clover Brandt reached second base in the second inning when her fly to center was misplayed. She went to third on a passed ball, but Alma got out of the jam when a bunt attempt was caught by Panthers catcher Bialagga.
Leister then struck out the next two batters.
Owosso had runners on first and second in the fifth with back-to-back two-out singles by Reyn Tuttle and Nevaeh Ginger. A ground out to third ended that threat.
Brandt clubbed two hits, including a double. Mott and Gadde each had two hits for Alma.
CORUNNA FALLS IN SEMIS
In the day’s first game, Corunna fell to Alma in the semifinals — which began Saturday before rainstorms hit the St. Johns area and forced officials to suspend the game with the Panthers leading 5-0 after two innings. Alma ended up beating Corunna 11-0 in five innings.
Shaw finished with a one-hitter, striking out seven with no walks. Alma scored two runs in the third and added four more runs in the fifth to go up 11-0.
Corunna broke up a no-hit bid by Shaw when Cavalier catcher Ally Vowell lined a two-out double to deep left center in the bottom of the fifth.
“Their pitcher was doing (her) job, putting them in the strike zone,” Vowell said. “As a team we really came together before the game and piped up and pepped up. We were ready to play and ready to play our game.”
Alma’s defense played error-free and came up with some big plays. Shortstop Trinity Sherwood robbed Morgan Renwick of a base hit with a diving stop on a line drive in the fourth inning.
It was one of those days for Corunna (7-25), head coach Sam Shuster said.
“Coming out of the gates being down by five today was tough,” Shuster said. “But we never gave up and that’s what I was looking for. We progressed throughout the whole season. We look at where we were earlier in the season against Owosso to where we finished now. We progressed all the way around and that’s all that matters.”
JaiLia Campos took the loss for Corunna. The left hander was charged with nine hits, striking out one and walking seven.
Hannah Hollister, a dual-sport athlete for Corunna, did not dress Saturday or Monday for the softball team. The junior led Corunna to its first-ever girls track and field state championship Saturday, winning two solo events and anchoring a first-place relay team.
Hollister, a center fielder, was one of the leading hitters in the area this season. She was batting .689 with 40 stolen bases through the end of the regular season.
Division 2 District at St. Johns
ALMA 11, CORUNNA 0
Alma 142 04 — 11 9 0
Corunna 000 00 — 0 1 4
WP: Danielle Shaw, Alma (5 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 7 K, 0 BB)
LP: JaiLia Campos, Corunna (5 IP, 11 R, 9 H, 1 K, 7 BB)
Hits: Corunna — Ally Vowell 1-2 (2B). Alma — Sarah Gadde 2-3 (4 RBI), Hailey Leister 2-3 (RBI), Alyssa Beecher 2-3 (RBI).
ALMA 1, OWOSSO 0
Owosso 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Alma 001 000 x — 1 7 0
WP: Hailey Leister, Alma (7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 10 K, 1 BB)
LP: Macy Irelan, Owosso (6 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 11 K, 3 BB)
Hits: Owosso — Clover Brandt 2-3 (2B), Grace Miller 1-3, Reyn Tuttle 1-3, Nevaeh Ginger 1-2. Alma — Dalaynie Mott 2-3 (RBI), Sarah Gadde 2-3, Hailey Leister 1-1 (2B), Alyssa Leister 1-3, Taylor Cleveland 1-3.
Records: Owosso 29-9; Alma 29-8; Corunna 7-25.